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Believing the Good in Brands

We designers are indeed a jaded bunch.

We sometimes craft messaging we don’t really believe in. We develop concepts and brand promises for clients that we’re skeptical they can uphold. We don’t trust anything by its face value — especially messaging from successful companies that are leaders in their respective industries. We believe that most large brands are innately evil or have deceptive business practices. We’re quick to judge, always expect the worse, and look for validation in every unsubstantiated, brand-smearing piece of hearsay media we come across.

Yep, as designers, we’re a cynical, gossip-mongering, brand lynch mob.

Why are we such cynics when it comes to large, global brands? Could it ever be possible for a large brand to be benevolent? To actually want to fulfill its promises and give back to the global community? What would it take for a brand to change your perception of it?

Let’s look at some traditionally-hated brands, shall we?

1. Microsoft— their mantra states that they exist to help customers “realize their potential.” Well what’s so evil about that? Sure, they have aggressive, predatory business practices — but what company in their position wouldn’t? And what does that have to do with delivering on their promise to their customers? Are they not the standard for the industry? Are they not good corporate citizens to their communities? Do they not donate hundreds of millions a year to education, community welfare, and other national and global causes? Do they not help millions of customers, thousands of sub-vendors, and hundreds of thousands of employees all “realize their potential”? What is so wrong with their brand messaging and why?

2. British Petroleum (BP)— trying to become known as “The Green Energy Company,” BP’s commitment to environmental-friendly business and manufacturing practices is unparalleled. BP chose this brand positioning because they’ve always been one of the leaders in alternative fuel manufacturing and research — including solar, wind-powered, and non-petroleum alternatives such as ethanol and hydrogen. Quite simply, they are committed to the environment. Why is that so hard to believe? Doing some research, I discovered that many BP stations are sustained by solar-power, and include nearby drainage pools with bioenzymes designed to organically break down oil and gas residue whenever it rains and creates runoff. This is clearly leadership thinking for their industry. But still, there are many critics who claim that BP’s campaign is nothing more than marketing postering — that the idea of a “green” energy company is an oxymoron. What’s so wrong with a gas company brand talking about sustainability?

3. Starbucks coffee— the world’s largest retail coffee brand wants you to believe that they are firmly committed to the environment, fair international trade and labor practices, and community welfare. In return for their outstanding corporate citizenship, they would appreciate your patronage and willingness to pay $3.55 for their fancy cup-o-joe. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? So why is Starbucks so hated in so many communities—especially abroad? Do they have unfair, predatory business practices, or is it just effective, smart business practices? What is so evil about their global proliferation and dominance?

and lastly,

4. Disney— here’s a brand that’s beloved by millions upon millions of children and parents, yet is condemned as the “evil empire” by so many others. Employees accuse them of being “anti-union” and having blatant disregard of fair labor practices. (I should note here, that most corporations in the US are non-union, and adopt the same anti-union position as Disney. Anti-union companies include Whole Foods, Kinko’s, FedEx, IBM, and Apple, among thousands of others.) Others accuse Disney of creating false impressions of a homogenized world in its animation and movies. But at the same time, the company showed its moral commitment to equal acceptance of all guests, including the homosexual community, when Christian groups such as the Southern Baptist coalition blasted the company (and threatened a mass boycott) for allowing Gay Days to be held every year at its theme parks. Disney held firm to its brand commitment that “Family Entertainment” applies to all types of families. So exactly why is this company branded as evil and is so hated?

There’s an endless list of large corporate brands that must constantly defend themselves against brand defamation. Some are deserved, but most aren’t. What about these global brands below — good or evil? Why? Can you justify your judgement and perception of them?

Nike
Sony
Coca-cola
ADM
General Mills
Wal-mart
Target
IBM
Apple

Now, let’s not all gang up against Wal-mart, or go pro-Apple. Try to get to the heart of why you really hate or love any of these brands. Is it built on a cumulative impression? Is your brand judgement more like a scale of good and bad? Is it specific to you being a designer, or a consumer? A quick warning: don’t just sling rhetorics — try to back up your opinions and impressions.

Why are we so quick to call so many brands evil? Why can’t we believe in the good in things?

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ARCHIVE ID 1989 FILED UNDER Discussion
PUBLISHED ON Jun.18.2004 BY Tan
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

I know for me, as I come to know myself more and more as I grow older, I realize why I have knee-jerk reactions to such things as large corporations telling me they have my best interests in mind: because while they are patting me on the back with one hand, the other hand is in my pocket looking for money.

If their advertsing was something as simple as "We're in it for the money" then I wouldn't harbor such innate distrust for them. It's when they project themselves as "do-gooders" instead of the money-making titans that they really are, I certaintly can't take anything from them at face value. I would bet, usually (but not always) they are helping out with the community just for the good PR it develops.

The bottom line is the this is a capitalist country. We know these companies focus on making money, and we also know that developing good PR is another tactic to generate more profits.

On Jun.18.2004 at 12:22 PM
Patrick C’s comment is:

With great power comes great responsibility.

You don't have to say more than that.

Many of these brands are in a position to create positive change, not only in their industry, but in the world. Yet they don't.

Of course I believe that some companies do take positive steps. But what can you say about Starbuck's efforts when Bridgehead is next door?

I've been very impressed with some of the food companies lately. Producing organic products and eliminating trans fats have been very positive steps.

Donating money or products or services to a good cause is, of course, good. But it's also very easy. Taking a stand within your area of business, changing the way products are made, these are the gutsy choices. They are also the most important because they foster long-term, industry-wide changes. Not enough companies do this.

And that's why I don't generally trust them.

On Jun.18.2004 at 12:25 PM
kev’s comment is:

Money exists to control human behavior.

These groups are all about making the most money they can.

Therefore, they are about controlling as many people as possible.

Plain and simple, people don't like to be controlled. That's really all there is to it.

On Jun.18.2004 at 12:43 PM
Omar’s comment is:

Jaded designers? Sure I guess.

Jaded consumers? Absolutely.

I don't think the skepticism of corporations that designers have is something unique to designers, but common to the America public.

It's not a particular characteristics of any one of these companies that irks people. These companies have grown to be so large that there's no way of knowing what takes place behind the PR front that they offer. Ultimately, the only time we get any real information as to how these corporations operate on the inside is when they face a crisis - whether it be the hazy accounting of Enron, the monopolistic business practices of Microsoft, or the labor exploitation of Gap. In the end, all we hear from the media is that we shouldn't buy into anything these corporations tell us, and it's only the negative press that choose to remember - since its the only press we can be sure is true.

What happens as a result? Well, I feel, the public tends to associate the failures of one compnay with the general image of the Corporation. As a result, they all suffer.

It's the American Corporation that needs a rebranding and PR boost. Unfortunatly that's not left up to designers, but politicians.

I think. Cheers.

On Jun.18.2004 at 12:52 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Hating big corporations, and everything they do, is easy. Being as big as they are there will always be loop holes of bad practices that are easy to exploit publicly. Capitalism also breeds pessimism and that's why we hear more about the bad stuff than the good stuff about big corporations. While not fair, these companies do generate a lot of money, so a tiny bit of controversy doesn't really hurt them that much — they are so ingrained in our lives that we find a way to "forgive" them.

> If their advertsing was something as simple as "We're in it for the money" then I wouldn't harbor such innate distrust for them.

Well, everybody is in it for the money. I don't think that's a secret nor something that is mysteriously being revealed to innocent consumers. Of course they want your money — just as much as I want my clients'.

> Donating money or products or services to a good cause is, of course, good. But it's also very easy.

I agree. It is easy for any corporation to drop 50-75-100K for a worthy cause and get some positive PR. While some see this practice as dubious I always try to see it from the people/organization who is getting the money, they are getting a huge jolt for what are commonly good causes. So what if it is "dirty" or "tainted" money, it's money and it helps — no need to be a martyr all the time.

Regarding Starbucks… I love their coffee and drink it every single day, however it is scary how predominant they are and how many local, solo-owned coffee shops they drive out of business — a fact more eloquently explained in Naomi Klein's No Logo.

Regarding BP… best rebranding and positioning ever. As a designer I totally buy into whatever it is they are selling because they are communicating it through their identity. As a consumer, I dunno, I don't have a car so I don't buy gasoline.

Regarding Microsoft… so Bill Gates is a millionaire, so they are predators, so fucking what? Get over it. In love, war and business everything is fair.

I think I'm a little capitalistic today…

On Jun.18.2004 at 01:16 PM
JLee’s comment is:

Money exists to control human behavior...

Plain and simple, people don't like to be controlled. That's really all there is to it.

kev-

So I'm guessing that you think that on a scale from 1 -10 these corporations are an 11 on the evil scale. Although you probably don't bill as much as some of these corporations, you're still trying to control people by taking payment for design work aren't you? So on a scale of 1-10 where do you stand?

-------

I'd like to know where people think the line between maniacal corporation and everyday business is. Do you become evil the minute you incorporate or is it when you have yearly profits of $1 million? Most every company Tan listed in his post started out humbly with the idea of selling a product or service.

On Jun.18.2004 at 01:51 PM
Armin’s comment is:

It's also important to understand that these corporations are simply defending and marking their territory. Cats pee on sofas, Microsoft goes out and sues developers working in their parents' basements. It's all a matter of proportion.

On Jun.18.2004 at 02:13 PM
Greg’s comment is:

Corporations as large as the ones listed touch lives, by the billions. Sometimes, negatively, sometimes positively. I think that the more people you touch, the more likely it is that you'll make an enemy. A lot of the time, it's these corporations who make enemies out of people with loud voices.

It's really easy to sit upon high and make judgements about others (or companies). It's harder to consider their position and wonder what you'd do. Kind of a "don't hate the player, hate the game" thing.

P.S. I always wanted to throw that phrase into a post...

On Jun.18.2004 at 02:21 PM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

I think there's a difference between a profit motive and having a culture of wealth-accumulation: our "robber barons" of old, the Rockefellers and Gettys of the world, at least saw schools, museums, libraries, parks, and the like as part of their legacy, but now, precious few companies or investors are willing to disadvantage themselves by depleting their liquid assets. When you ask "what company in their position *wouldn't* act like Microsoft," the answer is that you don't get to be in that position without acting like a tool.

Well, that is awfully simplistic – there are some decent, and extremely wealthy, capitalists around, like Warren Buffett (whose argues for lower CEO pay: he earns $100K a year), George Soros (who promotes open societies and democracy in environments where he is unlikely to make any money), and James Sinegal (the CostCo CEO who enforces a "maximum profit %" in his stores, runs a union shop, and still outsells Sams Club). In fairness, I think we should look for these people, and support them where we can. If someone wants to call Microsoft or Starbucks out for destroying yet another company with their nonstop expansion, or Disney for their horrendous intellectual property practices, then fine: there's so much bullshit now that if anyone's noticed one company in specific, then they're probably pretty damn bad.

There are dozens of little decisions that show a company's character: I think the biggest influence on the relentless pursuit of the "bottom line" is the way publicly traded companies promote short-term growth over long-term growth. Stock options, quarterly reports, these things promote a "fast return" over a particular set of values, and, well, it shows in the great majority of US companies today. Those old guys are a lost breed, I guess.

On Jun.18.2004 at 02:25 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Brands now represent a huge portion of the value of a company and, increasingly, its biggest source of profits. So companies are switching from producing products to marketing aspirations, images and lifestyles. No-logo-er’s have a big problem with this, obviously, as you are tapping into people’s insecurities and fears when you want them to feel better about themselves by consuming your product.

This marketing approach is to build a brand not a product—to sell a lifestyle or a personality, to appeal to emotions. But this requires a far greater understanding of human psychology, which a lot of corporations do not have, and consumers become rightly skeptical of their poor attempts to convince them of something they know “doesn’t feel right.” It is a much harder task than describing the virtues of a product. Thus, many of these corporations seem…what was the word you used, Tan? Evil.

The trouble is that most marketers have to struggle to create such feelings for their brands—they don’t exhibit these traits intrinsically, the way a brand like Apple, (for example) does. Coca-Cola and McDonald's, complacent from past success, find it difficult to admit that their customers are drifting away to newer offerings—so a falseness becomes apparent in their advertising and overall gestalt. Yet others, panicking that they need to do something, reinvent themselves and unwittingly lose the essence of their appeal.

However, I believe that more often or not, it is consumers that dictate to companies and ultimately decide their fate, rather than the other way round. Think of the failure of such high-profile product launches as “New Coke,” or how Nike’s sales went down when it was revealed they were operating sweatshops abroad. Even Martha Stewart’s share price fell off a cliff when her financial mistakes became public. Consumers will not support a brand that they find morally, esthetically or philosophically reprehensible.

Why are we so quick to call so many brands evil? Why can’t we believe in the good in things?

--Because it is easier to be mistrustful than trusting.

--It is hard to trust something you don’t understand, or couldn’t do yourself.

--Big companies are often authoritative, and most people rebel against being told what to do or how to do it.

--Advertising encourages you how to feel about something, and most people don’t like to be told how to feel.

On Jun.18.2004 at 02:31 PM
pk’s comment is:

the only of the above companies i get totally frothy about is disney. they are doing damage to the cultural landscape to a degree unimaginible by totally rewriting stories which have existed for centuries, and in some cases, rewriting history.

cases in point: pocahontas never got married and lived happily ever after. she died of syphilis.

On Jun.18.2004 at 02:46 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

The Corporation

On Jun.18.2004 at 04:35 PM
Lautaro Gabriel Gonda’s comment is:

Just to point out, Pocahontas did get married, but not to John Smith, and had a son. She died of smallpox, not syphilis. Happily every after is highly subjective. Not that any of this makes the movie Pocahontas any less of a historical mess (though it had some of the best animation ever), or Michael Eisner any less of a bigoted ass.

On topic, Microsoft fought hard to keep Affirmative Action from being abolished in Washington state, and I hear Adobe is really good to its employees.

On Jun.18.2004 at 04:55 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Off Topic,

Pocahontas by Neil Young.

Beautiful song.

On Jun.18.2004 at 05:04 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

The Corporation

During the film I wondered if they would interview any designer types and just as the thought passed, a Landor executive came on screen.

On Jun.18.2004 at 05:05 PM
marian’s comment is:

This is a really complicated subject, and one that caused me a great deal of confusion and concern a few years ago when I was jumping on the investment bandwagon. It is so hard to untangle the track records of corporations, especially as they are often so big and complicated, owning or being owned by many, many subsidiaries (something wrong with that syntax, but you get my drift).

Ultimately for me it comes down to a fairly personal, subjective opinion informed partly by some kind of awareness fuelled by media rumour, and partly by my own observations or actions.

There's not many on that list that I wouldn't work for, if asked--with the exception of Disney, which I personally abhor, mostly for the reasons pk mentioned and also for raping Winnie the Pooh (yes, i hold a grudge) and disseminating an aesthetic that turns my stomach.

So who wouldn't I work for? I tend to hold a special hell for arms manufacturers (which opens up that whole corporate pedigree conundrum) and environmental pillagers. And Tommy Hilfiger (just because).

I know that my sluttish attitude to many of these corporations would horrify some of my socially conscious friends, and I would always be willing to be dissuaded by an informed and intelligent argument. But when it comes to determining the relative evil of any corporation I find an overwhelming number of theoretical lines in the sand. If I draw it here, why not here, or here? And if I draw it there, how does that affect everything in my life?

At what point does my pointing finger turn back onto myself?

Indeed. PDQ.

But ... having said that, I wish to go on record in also saying that they're all evil fucking bastards. Just because.

On Jun.18.2004 at 06:28 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Good conversation so far I think. The irony is that I posted the thread this morning, then went to a 5 hour startup meeting at Microsoft.

Let's see, replying in order.

>Many of these brands are in a position to create positive change, not only in their industry, but in the world. Yet they don't.

Positive change in what capacity? By what tangible measurement? Create new legislature or labor laws? Build new schools and halfway houses? Cure diseases?

Every major corporation has either a corporate giving or community outreach department where large numbers of staff are task with doing just that — finding ways to make a difference.

Not to single your comment out, but I think this is the kind of dissatisfied rhetoric that's common among consumers.

In most cases, it's totally incorrect.

>Well, everybody is in it for the money. I don't think that's a secret nor something that is mysteriously being revealed to innocent consumers.

Yes. Thank you Armin for pointing out this hypocrisy. We all are in it for the money — what makes your individual pursuit of it any more ethical than a corporation's?

>It is scary how predominant they are and how many local, solo-owned coffee shops they drive out of business

Wait a minute here. Remember that before Starbucks had created the coffee craze, there didn't exist mom and pop espresso shops. People jumped on the bandwagon thanks in large part to Starbucks defining the sector in the first place.

And it's no different than Blockbuster driving out neighborhood video stores, or Subway taking over corner sandwich shops. It's the way business works.

>I'd like to know where people think the line between maniacal corporation and everyday business is.

Good question. I think one intangible factor/gauge is visibility. Being in the public consciousness is a dangerous place.

>Coca-Cola and McDonald's, complacent from past success, find it difficult to admit that their customers are drifting away to newer offerings—so a falseness becomes apparent in their advertising and overall gestalt.

This starts to get at the issue of 'authenticity' in advertising and branding. It's not about being honest, it's about creating a personna of trust. For example, if Halliburton admitted that it thrives as a result of its political ties, that would be honest, not authentic. Honest is not always good for brands.

All of your points are great Debbie.

>Pocahontas did get married, but not to John Smith, and had a son. She died of smallpox, not syphilis.

Well, I understand your objections pk and marian. But Disney makes no qualms about creating family entertainment. Making a movie that sticks closer to Pocahontas' real life wouldn't be very entertaining to little kids. Instead, Disney's Utopian version, no matter how incorrect, still portrays the evils of colonization, the dignity of the Iroquois Indians, and respect for all nature and animals. And there's songs to go with the story too. Now is that really so bad?

And like they say, if you don't like the programming, change the channel. You're probably not the intended audience anyway.

And marian — I read the classic Pooh books to my kids, as well as letting them watch the Disney versions. They love both equally. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for.

>I wish to go on record in also saying that they're all evil fucking bastards.

Record noted, you hateful brand slut.

On Jun.18.2004 at 07:15 PM
marian’s comment is:

The irony is that I posted the thread this morning, then went to a 5 hour startup meeting at Microsoft.

Um. Actually, I don't think that was irony.

Remember that before Starbucks had created the coffee craze, there didn't exist mom and pop espresso shops.

PUHLeeeze, Tan, Starbucks did not invent coffee, espresso, or coffee houses! There are and were plenty of coffee houses here in Vancouver and all across North America before Starbucks. Some of them are/were Italian, French, Portuguese ... and yes, Starbucks put many of them out of business.

And it's no different than Blockbuster driving out neighborhood video stores, or Subway taking over corner sandwich shops. It's the way business works.

It's the way big business works. The bigger the corporation, the cheaper their cost of goods. They buy in massive volumes from the cheapest sources and pass the "savings" on to us. If we don't mind having a single source of cheaply manufactured crap and selective goods for everything, then fine. A small grocery store can't compete with a Safeway; independent video can't compete with Blockbuster on a generic level. Their only hope is to specialize in the marginalized (or quality!) goods the big boys won't carry and hope that their local community sees the value and supports them.

This may just be "business," but there's a lot of hidden cost to the consumer. That cost is not in the wallet, but in the necessary business practices that must maintain "the cheapest at all costs." We all know what happens when our clients go for price over quality ... it's the same with everything else. Ever read anything about the mass-market chicken-raising industry? Even vegetables -- produced for size and production over taste or nutrients. And the working conditions in both industries are appalling. That's the hidden cost to us when we are deprived of choice and forced (yes, in some cases forced) to buy solely from the large corporations.

Support your mom 'n' pop stores! Support your local producers! Fight evil wherever you can!!

Pocahontas' real life wouldn't be very entertaining to little kids

Gee, maybe they could hire writers to write some more original material if history isn't working out so well for them.

Now is that really so bad?

Barf. Oh ... excuse me.

Sorry Tan. Not meaning to rag on you ... I know you're just a little dizzy from that 5 hour meeting. If you meet Bill Gates, tell him I say Hi - I've always had a secret crush on him.

On Jun.18.2004 at 08:06 PM
marian’s comment is:

Record noted, you hateful brand slut.

Oh, btw, I know this is an affectionate remark.

:)

On Jun.18.2004 at 08:09 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Of course it's affectionate.

>I don't think that was irony

you're right. It's more of a tragedy.

>PUHLeeeze, Tan, Starbucks did not invent coffee, espresso, or coffee houses!

Howard Schultz started Starbucks in 1972, modeling it after Italian espresso shops and French cafés. In 1972, the only place you could get coffee in Seattle or Vancouver was in a donut shop or breakfast diner. Schultz may not have invented the espresso craze, but he certainly made the industry into what it is today.

>Write some more original material if history isn't working out so well for them.

You know, it's called folklore. Storytelling. You're allowed to embellish. That's where Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Mulan, Robinson Crusoe, Tarzan, Treasure Island, and King Arthur all came from. How accurate do you suppose those stories are?

It's an animated fable, fer Christ sake, not a freaking documentary on the history channel.

See what I mean? If Pocahantas was animated by Hayao Mizayaki, like Spirited Away or Castle In the Sky, you'd probably be praising it for its poignant messaging and beautiful animation.

But Disney...oh, they better have their fucking shit together and tell it exactly like it is, syphilis and all.

PUHleeze right back at you.

On Jun.18.2004 at 08:44 PM
ps’s comment is:

never really cared for starbucks. nothing special about their coffee. not crazy about their created environment. i prefer the snackbars in italy.... but accepting that there are these big corporations ruling our planet, at least some of them seem to handle it in less evil ways. starbucks rewards its growers that respect their employees and take care of their land, so i feel better about the brand. i'll still choose to go to the little guy across the street (if the little guy is still there).

now, starbucks is one example, but it seems that other corporations are starting to do the same. its probably because consumers are getting smarter and demand certain standards. so the brands are catching on. the game is changing. and they had to learn that -- as others have pointed out -- they can't just fake it any longer. there are not many dirty secrets that can be hidden for long anymore. i wonder if some of the people in charge of these giants are so philty, dirty, rotten, stinkin' rich, that they found a new challenge in being better global citizens.

so, i have pretty high hopes that evil can become less evil....

tan, if disney would only be family entertainment -- i'd buy your comments, but i don't see it that way.

anyway... good topic... good conversation. enjoy the weekend.

On Jun.18.2004 at 09:10 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I dont necessarily hate big corporations, but sometimes I find their marketing techniques to be rather transparent, generic, or sometimes insulting. "Catch All" marketing just doesn't appeal to my sensibilites or tendencies. Being knowledgable about the process and thinking that goes into a brand probably makes me hyper-aware of all the branded messages I'm subjected to every day. So naturally I look into a brand much deeper, in order to be convinced that its worth my money. Which usually makes me end up buying more expensive things...ha! But those are investments rather than just purchases usually.

So rather than hate, I just dismiss. But unfortunately its not always that easy given some situations. How can you dimiss something that you feel very strongly against (ie. child labor, poor working conditions, etc.) or strongly for ? (beautiful aesthetics, durable products, etc.) I own a few pairs of Nikes, because they were able to prey on my aesthetic tendencies. "Thats a damn cool lookin shoe!" I said. I can also appreciate the thought and craft and quality of the design work that goes into the Nike brand. I also think Phil Knight is a moron after seeing that interview in Michael Moore's film. Something outweighed the other...I couldn't help it. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, sometimes I don't. I'm human.

I think big business in America has had a nice reminder the past few years how careful they need to be. And I think that in time, as consumers begin to realize just how influential big business is on our society, culture, and goverment, they will demand more out of these conglomerates. Until then, I'll continue to keep learning as much as possible about the brands I'm buying into and where that money ends up.

On Jun.18.2004 at 09:10 PM
marian’s comment is:

In 1972, the only place you could get coffee in Seattle or Vancouver was in a donut shop or breakfast diner

Joe's Cafe, on Commercial Drive in Vancouver has been in business for "at least 30 years," since "around 1970" according to the person I just talked to there. (i have a bit of a telephone phobia--I can't believe this thread prompted me to call a stranger.) Joe's has been serving the perfect Caffe Latte since as long as I can remember. It, too, is modelled on the Italian coffee houses. There are a number of coffee bars in the Italian district of Commercial Drive that have been there as long as I can remember -- certainly long before Starbucks made the scene here -- and just as many that have since disappeared.

They are/were cultural bars where nationalities with the coffee-drinking tradition would/do gather to watch soccer, smoke and drink coffee. A completely different ethos than Starbucks, actually.

Even in the humbleness that is Saskatoon Saskatchewan, there was an Italian coffee bar called Bar Italia in the early 80s. It, too, was modelled on the Italian tradition--not on Starbucks.

This is not to say that Starbucks is necessarily evil, but just that your statements regarding them as the single seed of the coffee house in these parts is incorrect.

On Jun.18.2004 at 10:04 PM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

I find that many are missing the boat here. In this arguement there is an underlying assumption thtat the comapny and the brand are the same thing. They are not. the brand is owned by the consumer and exists in their mind. The corporation does not. When the actions of the corporation run counter to the brand equity than it creates cognitive dissonance and breeds mistrust.

When Microsoft talks about us realizing potential, unless of course that potential involves actually uh, competing with Microsoft, or when Walmart tries to portray itself as part of the community but will not provide its employees in said community with access to healthcare for their children, then yeah, it breeds mistrust. Especially for those of us who know better because we are the ones helping to craft the brand.

Ultimately, we want the corporations to act in accordance with their brands and when they don't, we feel kind of betrayed. It is tough for us, as we don't want to stop creating brands. It is what we do and there is nobility in a brand. It is just when the beneficiaries of a strong brand are so undeserving of that nobility, it creates conflict within us.

On Jun.18.2004 at 10:10 PM
J Smith’s comment is:

This seems more like a societal issue to me than a straight company/branding issue. Whether brands fufill their promises can be determined in their financial statements.

Really brands have only three obligations, operate within the confines of the law in the place where they are established, deliver goods/ services as promised, return a profit for investors/ owners.

Why do you expect more from a CEO who has been trained to, adheres to and operates in a system that loves money?

On Jun.18.2004 at 10:59 PM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

I think one of the problems of our society is the sdisconnect btween societal and economic issues. They are the same. The problem with corporations is that they enjoy all of the rights of a member of society, but none of the obligations or responsibilities. We sould be cognizant that the corporate structure is a relatively recent phenomenon in our society, going back only about 300 years.

Why do I expect more from a CEO? Well, because he is a human being and citizen of a republic and a leader, and as such has civic and moral duties that transcend his economic livelyhood. Economics is about sustainability. I am reminded of David Ogilvy's admonishment to one of his ad guys (and I am paraphrasing), "Your customer is not a fool, sir, she is your wife."

Corporations and their executives do not operate in an abstract vacuum, but within a society, and it is time they started acting like it. To do otherwise is to follow the path of Enron, and Tyco. Not a model built on sustainability, only on quarterly profits. And the fruit of their labors? Bankruptcy, disgrace and criminal charges. Not good for executives, shareholders or customers.

The truth is that brands have no obligations. People have obligations. A brand is the result of a process of interactions with a product and a company, and woe be to any CEO that fails to recognize that the ownership of the brand resides in the minds and experiences of their customers. One need only look back to the "New Coke" fiasco, a classic brand case study, to see what happens when one thinks one "owns" the brand.

On Jun.19.2004 at 10:36 AM
marian’s comment is:

Eric, Wow. Thanks for all of that -- just beautifully thought out and said.

On Jun.19.2004 at 11:29 AM
Rob’s comment is:

Matt wrote:

precious few companies or investors are willing to disadvantage themselves by depleting their liquid assets

I think this brings up a very important point in comparing companies of today with their predeccesors from the early twentieth century who seemed more "involved" in a sense in helping society. Part of the problem I see from my many years on the inside is that most CEO's aren't sticking around long enough to much more than bring up the share price, take their millions in pay and bonuses and then cut loose. Now while this may be a generalization, and I'm sure there are many CEO's out there who aren't like this, the need to serve the interest of the stockholders, more or less known as specualtors because of their short term investing style, and the market is the driving force for most business leader's today. It's always a bit amusing, working in the financial field, to hear us preaching to our own clients about the need to invest for the long-term while our own strategy, from the top, is based on the reality of business today. Keep the shareholders happy by doing whatever it takes to get the stock price up.

I think the other difference is that in the long ago past, corporations were very closely tied to their owners and their families (the Rockefellers, the Getty's, etc.). They had a sense of pride and ownership that I don't really think exists so much in today's multinational/cross-cultural corporations. While a CEO may be preaching internally about a one company philosophy, actually being able to build that across many cultures is an extremely challenging proposition for any company.

Eric then wrote:

brands have no obligations. People have obligations. A brand is the result of a process of interactions with a product and a company, and woe be to any CEO that fails to recognize that the ownership of the brand resides in the minds and experiences of their customers.

I can see your point but I also have difficutly separating the brand from the company. Yes, in a sense the brand is the customer's perception based on on their experiences with the company. But as it is the company that creates those experiences and tries to influence their customers experiences, can you really separate one from the other? Are they not interdepenedent.

What about the company's employees? Certainly they are as much a part of the 'brand' as they are of the company and they must be able to maintain the experiences for their customers.

Strategically, a CEO must, I agree, acknowledge the role of the customer (which is a far cry from the days of the USP) in maintaining a brand's status (as Debbie mentioned, Martha Steward is one example, New Coke another.) But I think it you look back on the whole Tylenol case, that's one example where the company did exactly what it needed to do to maintain the brand in the mind of the customer. They succeeded in a case where many others might have easily failed. Just by being honest and pro-active. It's a shame the lesson seems lost on the majority of big business these days.

On Jun.19.2004 at 03:28 PM
jayna wallace’s comment is:

To made a broad generalization (which may or may not be accurate), one only needs to watch Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" to see the social irresponsibility of (at least one) company. GM built up the town of Flint, MI; they eventually got the majority of the town to work at their plants, and then, just for kicks (when they were actually making huge profits), they shut all the plants down and the town was destroyed. Plagued by unemployment, crimes were on the rise. And they took no responsibility. If anything they (the CEOs and other wealthy members of the community), felt it was the responsibility of the 30,000 people who lost their jobs to just go out and get new jobs, as if it were really that easy. So why is it that GM didn't take responsibility for the havok they created? Why weren't they held accountable?

On a much smaller scale (in keeping with the movie references) -- watch "Office Space" and see for yourself why people hate the big corporations. There are so many meetings about meetings and paperwork that has no relevance to anything whatsoever -- it's a wonder these companies are able to stay in business at all....yet they do. A few friends of mine work for Nationwide Insurance and they actually take time out of the work day to have meetings to try and encourage enthusiasm in the workplace. Like memorizing Nationwide's pledge to the consumer, and what it means to you, as an employee of Nationwide. Being that I don't own a multi-billion dollar corporation maybe that sort of nonsense does make a difference, but I'm perplexed as to how...

On a final note, has anyone noticed that you can't get anything from Apple for under $20? Every new accessory for the iPod is $19.95 and up. Even to get an adapter for an AC adapter (which is necessary if you don't want your AC adapter to overheat) -- it costs $20. My biggest beef is getting less product for more money -- with even less in the way of good customer service.

On Jun.19.2004 at 03:29 PM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

Rob wrote;

I can see your point but I also have difficutly separating the brand from the company. Yes, in a sense the brand is the customer's perception based on on their experiences with the company. But as it is the company that creates those experiences and tries to influence their customers experiences, can you really separate one from the other? Are they not interdepenedent.

Yes I think you can separate them. For example, Oreo, a longtime Nabisco brand, is now Kraft. Different companies, same brand. The same is true with many other brands that are bought and sold as assets. The companies are caretakers, for their brands, or as the folks at Ogilvy used to like to say (don't know if they still do--it has been a while since I worked there) "brand stewards."

And the company's employees do have a huge responsibility in nuturing the brand. Unfortunately, many companies through irresponsible labor practices actually disincent employees from making good decisions about their brand. Those decisions come from the top. When a CEO makes 100 times the compensation of their employees, it sends a message to the employees about exactly where the company places its values. When the Executives nurture the share price rather than the brand, the results are typically bad for the brand. A broad generalization, true, but where teh head goes the body follows, and if the head is chasing something as ephemeral as the whims of Wall Street, watch out.

On Jun.19.2004 at 03:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Yes I think you can separate them. For example, Oreo, a longtime Nabisco brand, is now Kraft. Different companies, same brand. The same is true with many other brands that are bought and sold as assets.

You're both correct. Eric, what you're referring to (Oreo) is a product-, or sub-brand, versus a company brand (Nabisco), or what we refer to at Landor as a Masterbrand. I've also seen it referred to as the Maker Brand.

Whatever the case, just to clarify for the sake of this discussion, we're talking about the corporate Brand, with a capital B. Nike, Microsoft, GM, Disney. Large known corporations where the Brand is the company.

>GM built up the town of Flint, MI

GM isn't alone in this model — and to be fair, I don't think they are solely responsible for the town's demise. Moore often paints a very simplistic view of complicated situations. Toyota is the primary employer in Nagoya, JN and built much of that town. US Steel built most of Pittsburgh. There are thousands of such examples of large corporations responsible for the growth of towns and cities where they're located. But they can't assume all of the responsibility for that town. That's the job of city officials, city leaders, and the citizens themselves. The corporations do have a large responsibility, but ultimately, they are not solely to blame during economic downturns.

In the 60s and 70s, Boeing was the primary employer in Seattle, and built 1/2 of the neighborhoods in the city, as well as schools, streets and highways for equipment transport, hospitals, etc. Well Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago four years ago — but Seattle was prepared and took responsibility for adapting to the change. Microsoft is currently Seattle's largest employer, and has been instrumental in Seattle's expansion w/i the last 10 years. So far, they've been very generous corporate citizens to the city. But one day, maybe in 10, 20, or 40 years — Microsoft will be gone, probably relocating to Bangalore or China. Well, when that time comes, the city will have to adapt. Microsoft will no longer owe this town anymore at that point,

This is somewhat of a tangent to the discussion, but I think too many people are quick to blame corporations for problems in their lives. We're a spoiled society.

>When a CEO makes 100 times the compensation of their employees, it sends a message to the employees about exactly where the company places its values.

The average CEO makes around 1.5 million/yr in the US. He or she is responsible for anywhere between 1,000 to 100,000 employees and their families.

The top 30 NBA players make and average of $13 million a year.

And a top hollywood movie star can make up to $15-20 million per movie.

Those salaries are ridiculous, yet no one seems to question their compensated worth.

Most CEOs are paid exactly what they deserve and are responsible for. It's too easy for employees to point the finger when they don't understand the role and responsibility behind the CEO position.

On Jun.19.2004 at 05:15 PM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

Tan wrote:

The average CEO makes around 1.5 million/yr in the US. He or she is responsible for anywhere between 1,000 to 100,000 employees and their families.

What does that mean? Responsible? So when a Walmart employee's child gets sick, but because they only work 23.5 hours per week they can't get benefits then the CEO is to be held responsible? What then happens? Does the CEO pick up the bill from his 1.5 mil? Do we throw him in jail for negligence?

How about when a plant closes because CEO man decides to offshore a town's worth of labor leaving thousands of people to pick up the pieces, just to improve his profit margins on the Street? What is his responsibility? No, my friend the problem with CEOs is that they are not responsible for their employees. If they were, their compensation would be more...responsible, much like in Norway, Denmark Japan and many other developed countries in the world.

CEOs who get grossly huge comp packages with hefty golden parachutes are not incented to stay in for the long haul, and that is why CEO turnover has never been higher.

And people question the worth of those athletes all the time. And for every top NBA guy or movie star making $10 million, there are a couple of things to consider. First, by the time agents, publicists, lawyers assistants and taxes get paid, that 10 million looks more like 4 or 3 million. Second for every top salary there are thousands and thousands who don't make it. It's more like a lottery. And let us not forget that that star athlete in a second might suffer a career-ending injury.

And just so we are all on the same page, I do understand the role of the CEO. I wish I could go into it more here, but I can't. But let's also understand that the CEO puts his pants on like the rest of us. And I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I for one would like to see CEOs behave with honor and integity and when they do not, there should be consequences that go beyond a slap on the back and a $20 million parachute.

Sorry if I am on my soapbox, but for me this is about personal responsibility. It is not the corporation's responsibility, it is not the brand's responsibility. It is OUR responsibility. We the people. The CEO and board of directors are human beings with a conscience and a moral compass. If they don't have one than they need to go. One who has been seduced by the singlular goal of the pursuit of cash no matter the social cost is not a leader, but a sociopath. And honor is defined by one's deeds, not by one's paycheck. We in America would do well to understand that.

On Jun.19.2004 at 07:02 PM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Eric- To join you on the soapbox for a moment, a very real problem is that all of what you described defines "Americanism" to an increasing portion of the world. I feel that our foundations are noble, but to many, buying into our system via WTO, World Bank and all of those things means that in a few generations, their heritage will be lost, and only a few wealthy, possibly foreign capitalists will hold the keys to their culture.

I don't think this is necessarily true, but it's probably a fair assessment nonetheless. That's why I thought David Stair's article from Speakup last week was so provocative, and why our response to the issues he raised will be so critical to the future of our culture as it becomes increasingly "global."

I loved the description of the transition from "shopkeeper-based"/local commerce to national/"brand based" commerce in Ellen Lupton & Abbott Miller's "American Graphic Design Timeline." (From "Graphic Design in America", and I think in their "Design Writing Research" book as well.)

Familiar personalities such as the Quaker, Dr. Brown, Uncle Ben, and Old Grand-Dad came to replace the shopkeeper, traditionally responsible for measuring bulk foods for customers and acting as an advocate for products [...] a nationwide vocabulary of brand names replaced the small local shopkeeper as the interface between consumer and product.

For all you gung-ho branding folks, keep in mind that you may be literally rewiring community infrastructures and long-held cultural hierarchies with your work; to many, I can imagine that what we do is deeply apalling in a way we cannot imagine.

On Jun.19.2004 at 07:52 PM
jenny’s comment is:

Eric wrote:

The problem with corporations is that they enjoy all of the rights of a member of society, but none of the obligations or responsibilities.

Eric is literally right; corporations came into existence to sheild individuals from personal responsibility from business failures, in whatever form. This allows people to take risks and build businesses that they might otherwise not have been able to do. It also allows people to feel off the hook for slippery moral decisions - and you can end up with the "screwing Granny in CA" comments of the Enron traders. Or employers who think it's just fine to employ people for 35 hours a week to avoid paying benefits, while they're earning their 1.5 mil plus perks. Or CEOs who encourage bad business practices and then take their golden parachute and run while other people hold the bag.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that large corporations can't be good citizens and do some good; many of them do. It just means that we should be suspect of corporate motives.

Also, we should also be careful about romanticizing the robber barons of old; Rockefeller, Carnegie, et al, engaged in business and labor practices prior to becoming philanthropists that make Bill Gates look easy going.

On Jun.19.2004 at 08:07 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>What does that mean? Responsible? So when a Walmart employee's child gets sick, but because they only work 23.5 hours per week they can't get benefits then the CEO is to be held responsible? What then happens? Does the CEO pick up the bill from his 1.5 mil? Do we throw him in jail for negligence?

You know exactly what responsible means Eric. Your story above is close to rhetorics — akin to something a politician would say to garner votes. Like Bush's Cadillac-driving welfare mother of 9 story.

A corporate CEO is responsible for the financial well-being of his company. His tactics, strategies, and actions directly result in the the salaries and benefits of his employees and their families.

As to your scenario above — labor protection is set by federal and state laws and labor departments. The fact that this worker's situation exists has more to do with the rising cost of health coverage, the political influence of the state's primary employers and their lobbyists, the state's insurance commission which sets restrictions and rates for the HMOs and healthcare providers that want to offer services in that state, and the HMOs and healthcare providers themselves.

The CEO is responsible for finding a way to work with all of the factors above, without sacrificing productivity, a reasonable standard of living for the employees, and profitability which keeps the factory doors open.

>First, by the time agents, publicists, lawyers assistants and taxes get paid, that 10 million looks more like 4 or 3 million...And let us not forget that that star athlete in a second might suffer a career-ending injury.

I can't believe you're making excuses and justification for athletes and movie stars, yet preach about honor and integrity for CEOs.

I've done a fair number of annual reports in my career, and have known quite a number of CEOs. The majority of them are far smarter and capable of managing complex issues than the average person. To stereotype these head executives with Kenneth Lay is to like grouping all designers with David Carson.

Look. Many of you seem to have a beef with healthcare benefits, and are incorrectly attributing that juggernaut, national problem squarely on the shoulders of CEOs. You're sorely mistaken. Try pointing your hatred directly at the healthcare providers and your state labor department, which determines the policies that dictate 99% of all corporate health policies.

On Jun.19.2004 at 10:03 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Honor. Integrity. Responsibility. Hate. Corporate megalopolies. Policies.

Whether hating brands is about globalism, modernism, patriotism, or environmentalism, hating brands feels perfectly healthy. When designers chastise them, it's like confessing your sins. We feel guilty. We wish other work existed.

Deep down inside, designers have a heart. And within that heart, they look upon unfortunate clients: arts organizations who can't afford a redesign of their logo or logotype for a six-figure sum; institutions without the knowledge of how a designer can inform the public about abuses or injustices; or a homeless man who has no idea about kerning type on a cardboard box.

Brand judgment isn't good or bad—it's healthy. Once you get it off your chest, ask yourself, Now what else should I be doing? Who deserves my efforts? Who else deserves good design besides the brands and corporate giants? Search your city. Look in the neighboring office building. Check out the local YMCA / YWCA. Too many places are in need of your help, and you'll feel good about showing others what you can do, what design can offer. Demonstrate the value of design beyond the corporate.

Let's be critical of brands. Go on and hate them. Loathe them. Don't do work for them. Now give somebody else your time, and show those brands that they're not the only ones out there worthy of design.

On Jun.20.2004 at 12:10 AM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Tan—a lot of what you're saying is actually a matter of choice on the part of corporate boards and the people that run them. Should productivity go up while employee compensation goes down? Should we hire 35-hour employees to avoid paying for healthcare at all? Should we blame these trends on voters instead of managers? Tricky decisions, all, for the CEO and the regular shlubs like us who consume all this stuff.

Southern California grocery chains just finished waging war against their workers, eliminating weekend overtime pay, lowering pay scales for new workers, and reducing health and retirement benefits — all of this against workers who agreed to the reduction of the working-hours per week years ago, so their families could remain insured and the companies could keep profits up. They were willing to lock out 70,000 workers to force their terms. And all of this when Safeway's CEO was busy losing billions on a failed upscale grocery chains in the midwest.

Maybe this sounds trite, but this year, CEO Steve Burd made $1 million in salary and $13 million by exercising stock options, while the company lost $170 million dollars and my neighbors were losing their f-ing mortgages. Though, virtue of virtues, he did elect to turn down his $181,000 bonus. Aw, what a sweetheart — no wonder the stockholders reappointed him. (Incidentally, Landor reworked Safeway's identity in '88, the same year they began their relationship with Burd.)

By the way, we're all designers here, and our business is rhetoric. But let's be responsible in the way we use it, okay? It's fine to want to like the people who employ us, but at a certain point, we get down to the "I'm Responsible for Harpooning Baby Seals" level, and we just have to give it up. Where is the "moral bottom" — what line won't we cross, or business practice won't we support? Glaser famously asked this question, describing a "slippery slope" from making packages look bigger to endorsing products that literally kill people (it was in an AIGA journal, and appeared a year ago in Eye). To engage in a bit (more) of hyperbole, I think it's pretty important for each of us to have an answer, or, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, we designers will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Because when the history books are written about how this madness continued so long, the first paragraph will feature the words "branding" and "emotional connection with consumers".

</unemployable>

On Jun.20.2004 at 01:48 AM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Aw, but I still love you, though! :) xoxox

On Jun.20.2004 at 01:49 AM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

Tan wrote:

A corporate CEO is responsible for the financial well-being of his company. His tactics, strategies, and actions directly result in the the salaries and benefits of his employees and their families.

That is a very different statement, Tan. You originally said that he was responisible for the employees and their families. And his actions will have a direct effect on employee pay and benefits only if the company sets things up that way. How many companies enjoy greater profitability by firing their workers and making their remaining workers do more for less? Can anyone here relate?

Tasn then wrote:

The fact that this worker's situation exists has more to do with the rising cost of health coverage, the political influence of the state's primary employers and their lobbyists, the state's insurance commission which sets restrictions and rates for the HMOs and healthcare providers that want to offer services in that state, and the HMOs and healthcare providers themselves.

The political influence of employers and their lobbyists? controlled by the CEOs? And last I checked the HMOs and insurance companies were out for profit, headed up by CEOs themselves. So if an HMO makes more of a profit for his shareholders by denying expensive care to those who need it, am I supposed to feel good about that? Am I supposed to applaud that CEO and give the guy a bonus?

I applaud CEOs that manage to be profitable and provide their employees with good lives. There is nothing to say that we cannot demand good behavior from cororate citizens. VOte with your dollars. Make them count.

I applaud CEO's like the Aaron Fuerstein, CEO of Malden Mills, who kept his employees even after the factory burned down and STILL managed to bounce the company back From Chapter 11. CEOs aren't bad as a rule...they are people and if they behave responsibly and with leadership, then I applaud them. When they don't, I don't. I just don't think CEOs should be compensated based on short term share price, but on long-term sustainable growth.

I don't hate brands. I LOVE brands. I am brand loyal to all kinds of products. I love working on brands and finding ways that brands can bring value to people. But when the behavior of a company is counter to their brand, I see that as a big problem. Perhaps Landor can give it a name, like Brand Betrayal. When Nike says "just do it," a message about personal empowerment and achievement, then runs sweatshops that exploit children in the Far East it sends a powerful message, a message that affects the BRAND and the brand perception by consumers.

I guess my point to all this is that brands are separate from their companies. The actions of those companies can nurture a brand or destroy it, but a brand is teh result of a set of interactions and experiences It is an asset. Take Phillip Morris--big company, great brand portfolio. There are plenty of their brands I am comfortable working for, but Marlboro ain't one of them. YMMV of course.

On Jun.20.2004 at 03:06 PM
Stephanie’s comment is:

It seems to me that Tan is going defend corporate America no matter what, so we might as well all give up. I could write paragraph after paragraph about what is wrong with the way corporations are run and how it is going to eventually lead to the downfall of our civilization if some regulation is not insisted upon, but why waste my time?

As aforementioned:

The Corporation

No Logo

On Jun.20.2004 at 10:48 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Not many answered Tan's initial challenge: to justify our judgment and perception of a handful of corporations.

Let me offer a simple response...

I harbor ill will toward most of the entities in Tan's list for the simple reason that they are the embodiment of the cultural flattening of the American (soon to be Global) landscape; and their 'branding' activity attempts to disguise this affect.

1:

The corn-based food additives of ADM (corn syrup, et. al) are pervasive through the American food supply — including Coke and General Mills products.

2:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/music/" target="_blank"> Record labels used to be run by music lovers; now they're part of larger multi-nationals like Sony.

3.

I don't think too much about Wal-Mart or Target. They're places I go to get supplies like bulk toilet paper and cleaning products — no love there. I do know that my hometown in western New York became less special when Wal-Mart opened.

4.

We've previously fought on these pages about the merits of Target selling 'designer' items; a la Michael Graves, Philippe Stark & Todd Oldham. Some have come to the absurd conclusion that this is a way for the common man to afford, let's say, a Graves teapot. My point remains: cheaply-produced products sold with a designer aura do no good — for both the consumer nor the design profession. A shiny turd is still a turd.

5.

Over the past ten years Starbucks has gone from a destination, with barristas as coffee evangelicals; to just another food service job in which the sentence "Thank you can I help the next customer" is robotically spat out like the scripted corporate obligation it is. Ironically, this new breed of foodworker usually has no idea of the difference between a cafe latte and a cappuccino.

So Tan, there's my quick handful. After this exercise I find myself wondering why you asked this. Your responses and comments here certainly suggest that you are firmly sucking from the corporate/branding tit. It's milk: a source of nourishment, perversion and somatic placidity.

Why then did you offer up a barrel of fish for us to shoot into?

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:49 AM
mwb’s comment is:

Many of these corporations are built on a false foundation. yes they may say were going to do this or we stand for this. However it reminds me allot of the cartoons I use to watch when I was

a kid. you know the ones where they would take a tour of hollywood and show all the houses where the backs of them would be propped up by planks of wood. People can say

what ever they want to however actions always speak louder than words.

Nike come on how can you even put that up there. What good has nike done period?

IBM much like Apple has a monopoly over the computer industries in both sectors. Whether or not this is evil i can't

really say, but you know damn well that it's all about money

with these guys.

Starkbucks has bastardized a long rich history of coffee. Yes, they may use recycled paper products and use fair trade coffee no one is doubting that. But like the pervious post the people serving you couldn't tell you the difference between what is what in a coffee drink. However much like the rest of these corporations they have taken something that use to have

character to it and completely stripped it away. If you really want to experience something like this I suggest going into a B and H camera store. Never in my life have I ever felt so used and thrown away until going in there. Everything has become so homogenized by big corporations. There is something to be said for a local coffee shop or going to separate markets that specialize in fruit, meats, produce, bread, shoes, clothes.

I also think that the reason why so many people consider these large corporations so evil is that they have become icons of our country. As much as you may not want to believe this it's true. But there is a pretty simple solution, don't support them if you don't like how things are being done. It's as simple as that I think that there are greater topics that deserve more attention than this age old debate.

On Jun.21.2004 at 08:41 AM
marian’s comment is:


That's amazing! You searched "corn syrup" on google and the first 10 results read like a litany of evil about the product.

There's something poetic about that.

On Jun.21.2004 at 08:47 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Perhaps a field trip to a NASCAR race will quickly illustrate the absolute fucking absurdity of corporate sheep herding. They're not just after one's money, they're after one's life. This is squarely the flattening, but man... it is coarse.

Everybody... everybody... is sportin' a brand as part of their identity. And brand loyalty? Wow. I don't get it.

I remember once - at some techno-schmooze fest - gaping around the room at all the would-be players and thinking, "Every one of you clods would own slaves if such were legal."

(Who else would love to shadow a CEO and see what exaclty it is they do from sunup 'til sundown. Nobody's routine is worth that much. Makin' deals... bah!)

Of course, every time I get on my rant bike, I am reminded of the time I was admonishing my kids about the evils of McDonalds and how we were never going to eat there again, and they're trying to take over the world and their food sucks and they treat employees unfairly and on and on.

At which point, a small voice said, "But Dad, what if we like it?"

On Jun.21.2004 at 09:06 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I don't think any of the listed brands are evil. It's the business practices behind the brands that are questionable.

Also, as graphic designers, we're obviously a bit closer to the marketing machine so we tend to know a bit more about how it really works. Which naturally leads to a bit of skepticism ;o)

On Jun.21.2004 at 09:16 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>It seems to me that Tan is going defend corporate America no matter what, so we might as well all give up.

Au contraire, Stephanie. I'm challenging you all to separate yourself from the hype and rhetorics of media, and ask youself why you're so cynical about brands. Where does it start? At what point do you draw the line and decide to live in the woods, make your own clothes out of trash, and live off berries and mushrooms like a hermit?

Corporate America is made up of people like you and me, our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, college roommates. They aren't all out to destroy the world, ruin children's minds, and screw old people. The more obtuse your thinking, the less serious your actions become.

I guess I'm asking people to put their money where their mouth is, and get to some tangible proofs and resolutions about what's wrong with corporate America and the brands we all live with.

If you can't take a little rebuttal from little 'ol me — then how set and defined are your convictions against corporate America in the first place?

>Your responses and comments here certainly suggest that you are firmly sucking from the corporate/branding tit. It's milk: a source of nourishment, perversion and somatic placidity.

We all suck from that tit, Mark. Some of us are just more honest with ourselves about it.

...

This conversation is great so far. And contrary to Mark's analogy, I don't think it's shooting fish in a barrel.

I think that much of the comments so far just come down to petty complaints. This corporation's service sucks. This company's products are turds. This CEO makes too much damn money. This chain's food is too expensive for what you get.

Blah, blah, blah. Not that I disagree, but those complaints are still rather shallow, and aren't nearly the level of social and political atrocities that many of you seem to paint a portrait of.

Like, what the fuck does "they are the embodiment of the cultural flattening of the American (soon to be Global) landscape" really mean?

Tell me that.

On Jun.21.2004 at 10:10 AM
Schmitty’s comment is:

Democracy=Greed

It's true.

Now before I get slammed for this unpatriotic viewpoint in a time when we are all supposed to be patriotic, here is why I say this.

Democracy gives individuals the right to earn a living in any legal way. So we all go out and get jobs to make greenbacks. Do you work harder knowing you are up for a review or possible promotion and the decision makers are looking at your day-to-day work/attitude. Do you stay a little later each night to try to outperform others that are in line for the same position? OF COURSE-YOU WANT MORE MONEY! Nothing wrong with that!

So what is wrong with throwing a group of people together with the same work ethic and calling yourselves a corporation? Are you all suddenly evil because you work a longer day than your competition, because you're company ads exist on everything from buses to urinal walls? and because of this you out perform your competition and make a boatload of money?

Hating big business is a case of the "have-nots" hating the "haves". I just took a 22% paycut because some clients went elsewere, yet the owner of the agency that I work for is driving his third new luxury SUV this year and openly admits that he paid cash for it. Does this make me mad? Sure, but do I have the right to be mad? Maybe not, after all 15 years ago when he started the company, it was him who had to take a second mortgage out on his house to fund the start up. He is the one who worries about making payroll twice a month. If the company goes under, he is the one who has to pay all the vendors that are still owed. He took all of the financial risks-I didn't. Why shouldn't he be able to enjoy the fruits of that risk? Isn't that why he did it-to make money and provide for his family? Besides, 50% of the reason I am here at my desk is because I CHOOSE to be here. I can always TAKE ACTION, if it bothers me that much and find another job or take a second mortgage out on my house and start my own company.

"It's not the way I would handle it if it were me!"

Of course if I owned this company, the last thing I would do is layoff people and give salary cuts.

Well we can't get mad at companies because they don't do things the way we think they should be done.

Let's not forget that Bill Gates was born just like we were. He cried when he wanted something (still does) and shit his huggies just like we all did. But he had an idea and worked hard at it and grew it and nurtured it. Now he is the richest man in the world (He is also the largest philanthropist-giving away more than half of his earnings each year). It's not right to consider him or his company "evil" because he is more successful than you. He has donated more money than you ever will and created more opportunity for financial well-being for his employees than you ever will.

Let's not forget that we-the people-still own this country, not corporations or big government. We own it because we can VOTE and PROTEST. If some big industries piss you off, I suggest you do either one of these rather than just bitching about this or that.Voice your concerns to government officials , do something constructive about it rather than playing the "victim".

As with most of us in the graphic industry, I work and own an Apple, but I don't buy into the popular consensus that MicroSoft (the Anti-Apple) is any more evil than Apple. Personally, I am much more pissed at the folks at Apple than I am at MicroSoft. Why are Apple computers 3 times more expensive than PC counterparts? Especially when they occupy less than 2% of the market? That pisses me off. And how come as soon as I buy a top-of-the-line Apple computer, bring it home and take it out of it's box, there is a newer, faster, better Apple released.

Lastly, I am not defending big business practices. What I am saying to you is that you do have the power to change what you see as wrong so stop your whining. It is this ideology that formed this country, and it is the best thing about this country.

And for those of you who are wondering about it? No. I am a lifelong Democrat.

PS Is it right to hate you because you are American after all America is the "MicroSoft" to many lesser developed countries?

On Jun.21.2004 at 10:29 AM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Schmitty - I think the synthesis of democracy and market-based capitalism is really a strange and unique thing, born here during and immediately after the Civil War. Eric mentioned that corporations have "rights" as citizens, but cannot be imprisoned, or be compelled in meaningful ways to obey the social contract we share under a democratic system — I agree. As Abe Lincoln once wrote:

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

—Abe Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864

At the same time, when you say that it's inevitable that our system should work against our interests, I disagree: why we form collectives and corporations, governments and stock exchanges, is to protect us from ravages of time, unlucky weather and health, and unsustainable social/economic systems by pooling our resources (knowlege and money) for the greater good. Which is why I explode with rage when a Safeway, or whoever, violates this contract with workers, and when someone callously states that this is "just the name of the game these days".

There's a split between a worldview where goods and resources are limitless (where we cannot exploit them to the level of depletion or permanent damage), and one where we have an efficient society that can actually deplete or destroy our resources.

[An] orderly and civilized way of life, with diminished war and disease... places an increased burden on the commons. A herdsman now thinks, "If I increase my herd, the loss owing to overgrazing will be shared by all, and my gain will exceed my loss." All herdsmen reach this conclusion, and therein lies the tragedy.

My sense is that our system can address this, through government (who can limit, in this example, the size of land that can be grazed) and marketplace (all these herdsmen can get together and learn of their folly, coming up with a better approach). If we are truly more civilized, and have a better fundamental system than the Greeks, Romans, Mongols, or whoever else history has left wasted and destroyed by their own excesses, then why not demand that our corporations stop following the economics of a past era? We have all the pieces in place, but for the CEOs, and those people who work to convince their peers that following wealth is the way to greater human satisfaction and freedom. (Which would be, ahem, us.)

On Jun.21.2004 at 11:52 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

They aren't all out to destroy the world, ruin children's minds, and screw old people.

No, but many of the brands you listed are corporate behemoths that are out to do one thing: make a crapload of money regardless of the environment, children't minds and old people.

and get to some tangible proofs and resolutions about what's wrong with corporate America and the brands we all live with.

Many of the ones you list are guilty of outsourcing a lot of their manufacturing to 3rd world countries where people are forced to work at an earlier age, for less money, with less benefits, for longer hours in lesser facilities. Some thing that is wrong, some don't.

My main gripe is when large multi-national companies put profit before anything else--as opposed to balancing profit with human/employee welfare and management of our planets' resources.

Like, what the fuck does "they are the embodiment of the cultural flattening of the American (soon to be Global) landscape" really mean?

Have you driven through America? It's Generica. Corporate behemoths can unfairly compete against everyone else. Look at what Wal-Mart has done to rural America (and now it's invading metropolitan America). While some people can point out short-term benefits (look! More jobs) but the reality is that Monocultures aren't good for the long-term in biology OR capitalism. ;o)

So what is wrong with throwing a group of people together with the same work ethic and calling yourselves a corporation?

Absolutely nothing. It's the work ethic we're talking about here. Many of the companies listed don't necessarily have good work ethics.

Hating big business is a case of the "have-nots" hating the "haves".

And vice versa ;o)

While that's true, that's not quite the same as critiquing a companies business ethics in terms of employee and environmental welfare. If you are big, you may be hated by some out of pure jealousy. You can't do anything about that. If you are partaking in business practices that only beneft your bottom line, then you may be hated due to that. You (as a corporateion) can do something about that.

It's not right to consider him or his company "evil" because he is more successful than you.

Nope. It's not right. There are plenty of other valid reasons to consider MS evil. Well, maybe not evil, but possessing some questionable business ethics.

Let's not forget that we-the people-still own this country, not corporations or big government.

Ah...blind optimism. ;o)

Why are Apple computers 3 times more expensive than PC counterparts?

a) they are not

b) what does this have to do with Microsoft?

PS Is it right to hate you because you are American after all America is the "MicroSoft" to many lesser developed countries?

Are you asking if it's 'right' for the rest of the world to hate us?

Well, that's a huge oversimplification, but there are justifiable reasons as to why other people on this planet that we share look towards us with less than rose-colored glasses.

On Jun.21.2004 at 12:00 PM
Greg’s comment is:

A couple things-

Reading through the thread thus far, I have run across the word "evil" applied numerous times. I assume that is in reference to the definition of the word that is "morally reprehensible." And, while technically correct in its usage, I think it implies a level of reprehensible morality on par with Hitler or Dahmer, not only someone who cares nothing for the well-being of others, but is actually damaging to those others. For example, I think it's "morally reprehensible" for someone to pass a homeless man on the street and not give a shit about him (I'm not judging here, I've done it too), but it is "evil" to actually cross the street and kill him for being homeless. Corporations may or may not care about you as a person, but they are not intentionally damaging anyone, and you'd have a tough time proving that they were.

Secondly, I have a question - If you hate these corporations, and truly get as worked up over this as some have said that they do, what are you doing about it? Aside from boycotting, that is.

On Jun.21.2004 at 12:30 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>Like, what the fuck does "they are the embodiment of the cultural flattening of the American (soon to be Global) landscape" really mean?

Well, based only on personal experience...

It means that everywhere one goes; one can: buy the same cup of coffee, drink the same cola drinks, eat the same cereal, put our pencils in the same Philippe Stark plastic desk set, get fat on the same high-fructose corn syrup, etc., etc., etc.

It means that one (and this is gospel truth) can step off the train in downtown Zurich and immediately go to either a 7-11 or a Pizza Hut. It means that Hawaii is overrun with pizza and ice cream joints. It means that there is a McDonalds next to the house that Mozart was born and raised. http://www.mcspotlight.org/" target="_blank"> It means that McDonalds will sue your sorry ass if you criticize them.

It means the wonder, discovery and texture of everyone's life is diminished for the sake of product consistency and a unified branding message.

And Tan, I'm certainly not criticizing you personally for sucking on that sweet, sweet corporate teet — and yes, I do it too — but aren't you being just a wee bit defensive?

On Jun.21.2004 at 12:38 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Darrel — I haven't heard the word Generica before. If you just coined it; kudos, and consider it stolen.

On Jun.21.2004 at 12:41 PM
graham’s comment is:

yes-mkingsley's referencing of mcspotlight.org is a good start.

gregpalast.com is a good one too.

"one market under god", the book by thomas frank, should be pretty much required reading if one works in this area, no matter how one feels.

On Jun.21.2004 at 01:15 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

And, while technically correct in its usage, I think it implies a level of reprehensible morality on par with Hitler or Dahmer, not only someone who cares nothing for the well-being of others, but is actually damaging to those others.

Well, a debate on the definitions and popular usage of the term 'evil' is probably a pointless one, but your definition certainly can apply to some corporattions.

but they are not intentionally damaging anyone, and you'd have a tough time proving that they were.

GE/Exxon/Nestle's environmental record. Wal-Mart's union busting. Nike's sweatshop labor. Etc.

Darrel — I haven't heard the word Generica before. If you just coined it; kudos, and consider it stolen.

I can't take credit for that...alas, I don't recall where I heard it originally.

On Jun.21.2004 at 01:35 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Why are we so quick to call so many brands evil? Why can’t we believe in the good in things?

I didn't see this question on first read. I think this is the problem, actually. Most people do 'believe' in the brand moreso than the company behind it.

Wal-Mart just entered the Metro Region of the Twin Cities. A lot of the grocer's unions were protesting this move due to the fact that Wal-Mart is strictly anti-union and tends to lower union wages in an area it enters. There was an interview in the paper where a protester was commenting on his fellow union members on how they all agree that Wal-Mart is going to hurt them in the long run, yet at the same time, come monday, they'll be talking about the great deal on a set of tires they got at Wal-Mart over the weekend.

I think that was a great quote and pretty much sums up the American Consumer. We're not evil, but rather significantly separated from the supply chain. We go into a store, see the price, and base out entire purchase decision on that (coupled with the advertising and PR that we absorb).

Education is the cure for excessive branding and PR. ;o)

On Jun.21.2004 at 01:41 PM
J Smith’s comment is:

If you are big, you may be hated by some out of pure jealousy. You can't do anything about that. If you are partaking in business practices that only beneft your bottom line, then you may be hated due to that. You (as a corporateion) can do something about that.

The head of a corporation can only do so much, the least of which should be to be honest.

However, they can not change the buying culture they can only offer alternatives and for the most part it's not in the interest of the mega brands to do so.

We're not evil, but rather significantly separated from the supply chain. We go into a store, see the price, and base out entire purchase decision on that (coupled with the advertising and PR that we absorb).

It would be an interesting experiment to have the same exact mega brand clothes. on a rack. The difference being $2 per item and a hanging tag stating that the $2 charge will go back to the makers of the item (overseas). Ofcourse for the skeptics there will have to be a transparent governing body to ensure the money is not pocketed. It could either go directly to the workers or some sort of counsel (voted in buy the country's workers in those industries where the money is pooled) which oversees puclic works projects as they regionally see fit, like building schools or better healthcare equipment etc.

It would be a witness where we stand morally as a country if we read a ticket that says: The price of this garment refelcts what is needed by "country name" where this item was produced to attain a higher standard of living. The $2 charge is pooled and deposited every month in a "governing body name's account" for redistrubution. We then get to decide what we are going to do. For everyone this may not be an option to participate but we will be able to tell for those who can afford to, whether or not the offer is accepted.

On Jun.21.2004 at 02:10 PM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Positive change in what capacity? By what tangible measurement? Create new legislature or labor laws? Build new schools and halfway houses? Cure diseases?

Every major corporation has either a corporate giving or community outreach department where large numbers of staff are task with doing just that — finding ways to make a difference.

Not to single your comment out, but I think this is the kind of dissatisfied rhetoric that's common among consumers.

Tan, you missed some of my post. I said that giving money to a cause was good, but easy. Making real change is a lot harder. It's not rhetoric. Most of these companies can do good, but choose not to. Here's an example:

American Apparel manufactures a range of clothing (mainly t-shirts but also a lot of other tops). They manufacture it all in the US (LA to be specific) and they sell it all for a reasonable price. They are clear evidence that positive change can be made. And this was exactly what I was talking about. Check them out for all the details (pay, recycling, sustainable cotton, etc.).

Now, why can't the Gap do this?

That's the difference.

The Gap could make this change and, who knows, it might actually improve their image and their sales.

To my mind nothing else matters when it comes to companies. I don't give a fuck about how much the CEO makes etc. I just want them to embrace better ways of doing things, responsible ways.

On Jun.21.2004 at 02:15 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

…when you say that it's inevitable that our system should work against our interests

Matt, when did I say this? In fact what I was getting at is that a Democracy allows us to pursue our individual interests.

Darrel,

Many of the ones you list are guilty of outsourcing a lot of their manufacturing to 3rd world countries where people are forced to work at an earlier age, for less money, with less benefits, for longer hours in lesser facilities. Some thing that is wrong, some don't.

True this is wrong, but inevitable in business. Simplify it from countries/ continents to two neighboring towns. The industry from town A goes next door to town B because of better taxes, lower worker wages, cheaper insurance and no hour/age limits for workers. This is great for town B initially because they have no industry and a large unemployment rate. After a few months the workers in Town B say

"Hey how come I don't get insurance or the same salary or a shorter work week like town A workers do? I do the same thing as they do! It is time to strike and let our employers hear our demands"

Greately over simplified, but all markets accross all countries will eventually even out in salary etc etc.

Why are Apple computers 3 times more expensive than PC counterparts?

a) they are not

b) what does this have to do with Microsoft?

OK-I'm wrong they are twice as expensive. And if MicroSoft has nothing to do with Apple (MicroSoft owned let's not forget), then how come, in our industry, ragging on MicroSoft is so prevalent. I never said that MicroSoft makes computers-they don't. They make software that most of us hate. Apple makes computers. Show me again where I compared MicroSoft to Apple? I believe what I said is "Why are Apple computers 3 times more expensive than PC counterparts?" Where does MicroSoft come in that sentence?

Let's not forget that we-the people-still own this country, not corporations or big government.

Ah...blind optimism. ;o)

lazy pessimism

I'm not saying democracy is perfect and that globalization is fair for all and big business doesn't take advantage of the "little guys". I also see a third of my paycheck go to taxes just like you do.

What I am saying is quit moaning about it and being negative and do something about it if it bothers you that much!

On Jun.21.2004 at 02:42 PM
J Smith’s comment is:

Not to single your comment out, but I think this is the kind of dissatisfied rhetoric that's common among consumers.

Not a problem this is a discussion.

Positive change in the capacity of education would probably be the most effective way to use the money.

After that I don't know… my guestimation would be measurable by literacy rates and down the line to GDP and those above and below the poverty line.

Hopefully the country can persuade private investor's to come in to start or maintain a growth cycle to employ those with a higher level of education.

Not to sound simplistic there are I am sure alot of variables that I am not aware of that complicates the situation but atleast an education gives some people a chance to move up and or out.

The Gap could make this change and, who knows, it might actually improve their image and their sales.

It still boils down to whether the consumer would support it and if the risk/ reward for setting it up is worth it for them.

Thanks, I'll check them out (American Apparel manufactures).

On Jun.21.2004 at 02:57 PM
J Smith’s comment is:

Not to single your comment out, but I think this is the kind of dissatisfied rhetoric that's common among consumers.

Not a problem this is a discussion.

Positive change in the capacity of education would probably be the most effective way to use the money.

After that I don't know… my guestimation would be measurable by literacy rates and down the line to GDP and those above and below the poverty line.

Hopefully the country can persuade private investor's to come in to start or maintain a growth cycle to employ those with a higher level of education.

Not to sound simplistic there are I am sure alot of variables that I am not aware of that complicates the situation but atleast an education gives some people a chance to move up and or out.

The Gap could make this change and, who knows, it might actually improve their image and their sales.

It still boils down to whether the consumer would support it and if the risk/ reward for setting it up is worth it for them. If Gap is going to produce product A they have to do so for a profit.

Thanks, I'll check them out (American Apparel manufactures).

On Jun.21.2004 at 02:58 PM
Greg’s comment is:

GE/Exxon/Nestle's environmental record. Wal-Mart's union busting. Nike's sweatshop labor. Etc.

Yes, I had heard that GE was actually holding the environment hostage, and the CEO of Nestle went into business with the specific intent of ruining, and I quote, "that damn bitch Mother Nature." Also, Wal-Mart has parties themed around union destruction and Phil Knight goes to India and slaps babies.

Seriously, assuming you're right about all of those, do you really think all those deeds were dastardly? I might think they were incidental, but certainly not intentional.

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:11 PM
Patrick C’s comment is:

It still boils down to whether the consumer would support it and if the risk/ reward for setting it up is worth it for them. If Gap is going to produce product A they have to do so for a profit.

In the case of the Gap that is not an issue IMO. They are a market leader and, as I pointed out with AA's pricing, if the price is the same as their current clothing, they risk nothing. American Apparel is a for-profit company, but a small one. If the Gap put the kind of money and marketing power they have behind a similar intiative it would succeed.

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:23 PM
jenny’s comment is:

Back to Darrel's point about Wal-mart, we can take the case for abhorent business practices even farther than union busting. The NYT reported on January 18 (looked it up in the archive - you'll have to pay to read it, though) that Wal-mart was locking employees in at night at a certain percentage of their stores. This practice was intended to cut down on theft - employee theft as well as break-ins.

Problem was, there wasn't always a manager there to let people out when, say, they finished their shift or someone got their ankle got crushed under heavy machinery - or let rescue workers in to help. I guess someone in management hadn't heard of the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire. They are, of course, addressing the problem, once they got some bad press over it.

And I think locking people into a building so that they can't get out hits the level of intentional, not simply incidental. The Triangle shirt waist fire left something over 140 employees locked in the sweatshop dead. In 1911.

I find the combined actions of Wal-mart with regards to its employees unsavory, unethical, and in the case above, possibly illegal. And in this case, I do put my money where my mouth is and don't shop at Wal-mart.

Tan is right - the corporate world is made up of everyday people - friends, neighbors, significant others, etc. Most of them are not out to "screw granny" or whatever. Some of them are even trying to make the comsumer's life a little more pleasant, and turn a buck in the meantime. That's fine with me. I've certainly done work for corporations, like most people here. And I don't walk around and assume every corporation is evil incarnate.

At the same time, I hit a point - a proponderence of evidence, if you will, or a cumulative impression is what I think Tan called it - where I begin to think that a corporation like Wal-Mart has crossed the "do no harm" line. And I vote in the only way that seems to make a difference to corporations - with my pocketbook. I realize that's not what everyone is going to do. But I can afford to and I will.

What would it take to change my perception of Wal-mart? Not sure at this point. Allowing its employees to unionize? Or at least some form of fair labor practices?

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:25 PM
Stephanie ’s comment is:

Ok, Tan, I'll go ahead and waste my time after all:

I would say that the biggest underlying problem with big corporations is that by definition they cannot please anyone but their shareholders. They are under no control by the public/voters. They are increasingly under less and less control by the government and if the current president stays in office I fear how powerful they will become.

They have made it nearly impossible to purchase anything that is *not* touched by them and they insist on controlling the entire landscape of this country and the world. We cannot escape them. I try to 'vote with my dollar', but when you cannot find a product you want to vote for, what are the options?

The result of the requirement to please no one but the shareholders requires corporations to go to any and all lengths to give the customer 'what they want.' Now I'm sure there will be much disagreement on this point, but my opinion is that humanity as a whole often does not know what is best for itself. So everyone in this whole damn country wants to go out and buy an SUV and burn our precious resources at a rate many times that of other countries and with no regard for the present and future environmental price. So what do the car companies do? They make SUVs hand over fist becuase that is what America wants and so that is what they'll get - ditto for many other less than necessary products. Yet even if a corporation realizes that, hey, we'd like to stop producing SUVs becuase we don't feel they're environmentally responsible - they can't do that becuase that would violate the rule of pleasing only the shareholders.

The whole system is entirely fucked up and given the power of corporate America its going to be very difficult to change, especially with the current adiminstration's love of everything corporate.

My solution to this problem, if it were possible: Corporations need to be required to balance both pleasing shareholders and behaving in an socially responsible way. This would require rewriting many laws and I don't see it happening any time soon, but that is the only way this trend can change. Corporations have become so large and powerful and invasive that they have become a much larger force in our lives than even our goverment, and yet we have no democratic say in their practices. The public must have a say in the practices of the 'public' corporations that basically control their lives.

We can't call this country a democracy if the 'true' rulers are unelected and untouchable by the public, no?

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:27 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

True this is wrong, but inevitable in business.

It's not inevitable. It's a choice. Patrick C pointed out American Apparel. There's Free Trade Coffee. There's Ikea. These companies have made choices NOT to farm out to third worlds simply to get cheaper labor regardless of the working conditions.

Granted, behemoths like Wal-Mart make it very difficult for their members to make this decision. Or rather, they make it for them.

To say it is inevitable is no different than saying rampant pollution by big business is inevitable. Or that union busting is inevitable. If that's the way we're thinking then the BigCo's have already won. ;o)

Greately over simplified, but all markets accross all countries will eventually even out in salary etc etc.

Umm...maybe. In what? 200 years? The reason we outsource to China is because chinese laborers have a LOT less power to do things like strike. If all countries practiced open democracy and free (and FAIR) trade, then this argument of 'systems balancing' would make a lot more sense. Unfortunately, laborer welfare can't balance in an unbalanced system.

OK-I'm wrong they are twice as expensive.

Well, I'm not sure what this has to do with the current debate, but I'm always up for this one ;o)

Apple computers are not twice as expensive. Feature for feature, they tend to be just about the same. Price some comparably equipped Dell and Apple laptops, for example.

And if MicroSoft has nothing to do with Apple (MicroSoft owned let's not forget)

Microsoft owns Apple?

then how come, in our industry, ragging on MicroSoft is so prevalent.

Lot's of reasons. Some people just don't like them because they are big. Some people (like me) don't like a lot of what they do because it is simple abuse of a monopoly at the expensive of both consumers and developers.

I'm using IE, Outlook and devlop in .net not by choice, but due to MS's heavy-handed marketing tactics. MS will do ANYTHING it can to make sure their software is on as many desktops as it can put them on EXCEPT to actually write better software. It will first try to buy out the competition, then undercut the competition in pricing, and then some back-door shenanigans, and then, only when it absolutely has to, will it actually sit down and write some damn fine software.

Ah...blind optimism. ;o)

lazy pessimism

And the truth is pretty much right in the middle. Yes, it is our government, and it's also big corporation government. There are some very clear hurdles in our current system that favour business over the individual. We can still change it, but let's not kid ourselves that the system doesn't play favorites.

Seriously, assuming you're right about all of those, do you really think all those deeds were dastardly? I might think they were incidental, but certainly not intentional.

You don't need to assume I'm right. With a bit of digging you can find plenty of information on these things.

Certainly not intentional? Even if THAT were true, does that forgive them? This goes back to the comment above about corporations having many rights like an individual, but few of the responsibilities.

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:35 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I would say that the biggest underlying problem with big corporations is that by definition they cannot please anyone but their shareholders. They are under no control by the public/voters. They are increasingly under less and less control by the government

Wow. Short, sweet, and pretty much sums things up nicely. Well put.

On Jun.21.2004 at 03:37 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>but aren't you being just a wee bit defensive?

Sorry, I didn't mean to be defensive or overtly confrontational — which I was. My bad.

Just stirring the pot a bit for discussion, which has progressed.

>I'll go ahead and waste my time after all.

Thank you Stephanie. Now don't you feel better? :-)

>It means that one (and this is gospel truth) can step off the train in downtown Zurich and immediately go to either a 7-11 or a Pizza Hut. It means that Hawaii is overrun with pizza and ice cream joints. It means that there is a McDonalds next to the house that Mozart was born and raised.

Yes, but if you want good bratwurst or good chinese in Zurich, you can still find that too. Same with good polish and good sushi in Minneapolis (Oregami's, btw), right alongside the Subways, McDonald's, and Pizza Hut.

You're going under the assumption that one replaces the other, which isn't necessarily true. In a free economy, expansion is a common scenario. In Texas, there are tons of Taco Bells as well as tons of mom and pop Taquerias. Nothing is becoming generic.

>There's Ikea.

Actually, Ikea's manufacturing costs were so low and cutthroat in Sweden that they became a dirty name among local suppliers. So for pine, rivets, etc. —�they source materials from the lowest bidder across Europe and the world.

...

On another note, people here seem to think we have the right to dictate what small town America can or cannot have for retail and services. What right do you have to say that Hicksville, USA can't have a Home Depot? Or a Gap? Or a Safeway? Why do they have to keep their general goods, hardware stores, and Piggly Wigglies if they don't want to? For your damn tourism pleasure? What right do you have to say that their lives are any better?

On Jun.21.2004 at 04:27 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Since we're tossing around all this talk of evil, I thought I'd go out on a limb and quote a little scripture. Sometimes these things go hand in hand. Bear with me.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6:12 :: KJV

I think this might get at the root of a lot of people's discomfort with large corporations: they have no face. Perhaps we all feel powerless against the onslaught of these creatures because we can't have a dialog or reason with them as we would a fellow human.

Sadly and ironically, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1886 that incorporated businesses could enjoy legal personhood via the 14th Amendment and thus the decline began. That little trick partly explains why 61% of American corporations payed no taxes.

The system is unjust, but one cannot simply lay it at the feet of a conflation of "people like you and me". Ultimately, it's a cosmic problem.

On Jun.21.2004 at 04:33 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>I'm challenging you all to separate yourself from the hype and rhetorics of media, and ask youself why you're so cynical about brands. Where does it start?

>I think that much of the comments so far just come down to petty complaints. This corporation's service sucks. This company's products are turds. This CEO makes too much damn money. This chain's food is too expensive for what you get.

>I guess I'm asking people to put their money where their mouth is, and get to some tangible proofs and resolutions about what's wrong with corporate America and the brands we all live with.

What you consider petty complaints are the http://www.eciad.bc.ca/~rburnett/Barthes.htm" target="_blank"> punctum where each individual realizes the emptiness of contemporary branding. Like Bridget Bardot in Le Mepris, the slightest insult can be enough to turn love into hate.

Some of the responses here deal with the larger socio-political aspects of big business, some are about interpersonal customer relations. If Branding is about creating a relationship with the customer; it would seem obvious that the larger a company becomes, the more difficult to sustain that relationship.

On Jun.21.2004 at 04:35 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

Microsoft owns Apple?

OK, Darrell my mistake.

"The company was struggling financially when on August 6, 1997 Microsoft bought a $150 million non-voting share of company as a show of support. (Microsoft has since sold all Apple stock holdings.)"

I'm sure you remember the idea was that if Apple went belly-up, MicroSoft could be considered a monopoly and broken up by the government. I did not realize that MicroSoft has since sold all of it's Apple stock.

On Jun.21.2004 at 04:57 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Punctum. Great word Mark. Thx.

>What you consider petty complaints are the punctum where each individual realizes the emptiness of contemporary branding...If Branding is about creating a relationship with the customer...

Excellent point. So it's more about the personal disillusionment of branding. When you realize that driving a Porsche doesn't make you younger, and wearing Nikes doesn't make you any healthier.

But just because you bought a pair of Nikes, but are too lazy to exercise — it doesn't mean that the company is evil and its branding false. It's about that consumer's lack of self-fulfillment.

So then he or she looks for excuses to transfer his/her disillusionment and malaise. Like a jilted lover.

Gullible and petty I think.

On Jun.21.2004 at 05:03 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

On another note, people here seem to think we have the right to dictate what small town America can or cannot have for retail and services.

We don't have the right to decide what happens in our own communities? The reality is, no, we don't. But we should.

What right do you have to say that their lives are any better?

Did it occur to you that some of us come from and/or live in small town rural America?

I'm sure you remember the idea was that if Apple went belly-up, MicroSoft could be considered a monopoly and broken up by the government.

There is a lot more to the Apple/MS stock thing than what appeared on the surface.

Also, Microsoft has been considered a monopoly by the government. Alas, MS settled most claims prior to verdict and the government has done little to change MS's tactics. The only ones that benefited were the suing lawyers. Which is usually the case in a class action suit these days. ;o)

And, for the record, Apple is a monopoly too...they just don't tend to piss people off as much (namely by forcing less proprietary technologies onto the consumer and, well, they're standing next to MS).

On Jun.21.2004 at 05:08 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

So then he or she looks for excuses to transfer his/her disillusionment and malaise. Like a jilted lover.

Yep. That's exactly it Tan. We're all against Nike's manufacturing and outsourcing practices because we got old and fat.

;)

On Jun.21.2004 at 05:10 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Mark — just acknowledging that I twisted your words to say my own. I know that's not what you meant.

...

And Darrel, I thought you lived in Minneapolis? If so, why did you move there from Hicksville USA? Was it because it was getting generic?

On Jun.21.2004 at 05:14 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

And Darrel, I thought you lived in Minneapolis? If so, why did you move there from Hicksville USA? Was it because it was getting generic?

Minneapolis? Pshaw. I live in much nicer St. Paul.

;o)

I grew up in 'hicksville' WI. I watched bad small-town politics bring a city to a screeching halt. I watched greedy big-box retailers (namely Fleet Farm and Wal-Mart) take complete advantage of the poor economy and lack of alternative jobs for folks.

Companies like these just don't give a damn about their employees. That's what gets me.

When I (very rarely) return to this town for a visit, it's pretty much all Generical now. 80% of the restuarants are your typical chain dives. The only real shopping is at the Wal-Mart. Only two other grocers survived Wal-Mart moving in...and they aren't doing too well. Little-to nothing is given back to the community (and the community is to blame for much of that as well).

I later went to school in a different small-town WI. I watched Wal-Mart move their shipping center in after the town gave them a multi-million dollar tax credit deal. In turn, Wal-Mart gave everyone jobs. Albeit benefit-less, and not paying a whole lot. In turn, Wal-Mart built their local mega-store driving what business was left downtown away. Fortunately, it was a college town, so Generica never completely crept into the 'inner circle', but it certain made it's mark. For better for worse.

My parents now live in yet-another small town America. Wal-Mart is breaking ground this summer. Right across from the brand new grocery store that the local grocer had put a LOT of money into. The town was split fairly even down the middle as to whether or not to allow Sam Walton in. In the end, it didn't matter. Wal-Mart simply said, either you let us build or we'll just move our building 1000 yards south outside of the city limits and you won't get any of our taxes.

The reason Wal-Mart is so big is that they were smart enough to go after small town America. On the surface a Wal-Mart seems great, so they spread fast and furiously. Now small towns NEED a Wal-Mart, less they end up competing with the small-town 30 miles away that DOES have a Wal-Mart. Clever Sam...

In case you haven't heard yet, Vermont is now on the list of endangered historical places thanks to Wal-Mart.

On Jun.21.2004 at 05:25 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

Darrel,

I think Midnight Oil puts it well in a song called "Progress"

...Got your last meal, filled up with pesticide

Hamburger chain third world infanticide

Got robot car your jobs will disappear

It's the politics of a brand new year

Manhattanization is coming, open your eyes if you dare

Carry us on to the crossroads, come to your senses and care

...You may be safe in your hemisphere

But there's so much junk in the stratosphere

We got our eyes on the firmament, hands on the armaments

Heads full of arguments, and words for our monuments

I won't deny it, can we survive?

Some say that's progress

I say that's cruel.

On Jun.21.2004 at 06:01 PM
jenny’s comment is:

Back to beating on the Walmart drum again, sorry -

Not every place wants Wal-mart to roll right in/over their community. Didn't voters in SoCal vote against allowing Walmart into some of the municipalities there, after Walmart got an initiative on the ballot after the city council members voted against it? Admittedly, this was near LA and not in rural areas...

San Francisco recently banned chains from certain neighborhoods, specifically Hayes Valley and North Beach. And although I have issues with this (SF is notoriously anti-business), I do understand.

On Jun.21.2004 at 06:11 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Hey, I'm the last to defend Wal-mart. Hate em as much as everyone else, for the very same, legit reasons. There's not a single Wal-Mart w/i Seattle city limits.

...

As a side note, I found some definitions I thought was pertinent to this discussion. Everyone has been throwing around the terms democracry, capitalism, and 'systems balancing', so here's a few more:

Marxism:

The political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in understanding society's allegedly inevitable development from bourgeois oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society.

Communism:

A theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.

Socialism:

Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

Capitalism:

An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

...

Now I'm not calling anyone a commie or Marxist here, but if the shoe fits comrade... :-)

On Jun.21.2004 at 06:26 PM
Emma’s comment is:

If there is anyone who lives in Australia, especially Sydney and have seen the Krispy Kreme phenomenon... and wonder, like myself, why do people queue around the corner and wait for 45 minutes for a damned donut?

Please someone try to convince me that people aren't weak-minded believers in corporations, albeit subliminally? The general population wouldn't have touched a donut even if you paid them a few months ago, now they are gorging themselves on dozens at a time of the same thing... but it is Krispy Kreme, it must be good.

I don't think it is because I am a designer I am jaded and anti-corporation (entirely) I just dislike the sheep mentality that goes with it.

Good on the corporations making tons of money... but I don't want to turn the corner and see a McDonalds next to Mozarts house.

My dislike grows as well from your friend and mine George W trying to control the world and our (as Australians) Prime Minister agreeing like a little lap dog.

Let's all get fat on consumerism!

Tired of it all.

On Jun.21.2004 at 06:27 PM
marian’s comment is:

At what point do you draw the line and decide to live in the woods, make your own clothes out of trash, and live off berries and mushrooms like a hermit?

Ah, Tan, you should've come to visit me on Bowen Island when you had the chance! Berries? We got berries! Home-made clothes, questionable moonshine, and our own music a-hollerin' into the night. (Is it any wonder I crave New York?)

Next time, boy, C'mon down! We'll show you a good ol' unbranded non-Generic time, yessir.

[Confession: Krispy Kreme is the only overtly branded item of clothing I have worn in over 10 years. That's one fine donut and I like the logo too.]

On Jun.21.2004 at 08:22 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:


>>

Rule Number One: Don't be hoodwinked by anybody, especially advertisers -it is what it always is -

What a bunch of (hiccups) crybabies and navel gazers! OOps! I'm so sorry! (hiccups) Never before (hiccups again) in the history of the world (hiccups) did so many artistic people have the luxury of culture shaping, cynicism and self-indulgent hooey as modern American designers have. You have got to be KIDDING. Were you dreaming of trading wampum with Pocahantas?(Hic, hic)

Advertising is a cannibal that eats everything, Sport! You're still a naked lunch..only you think about designing dinnerware to take your mind off your fate.(hiccups again loudly)

Maybe some of you do have made some intelligent, thoughtful points, I read them all.I think. (hiccup) I mean no disrespect, really and truly. It's terrible of me, I know....

Someone mentioned the book "No Logo" (hiccup) which had a fairly good sense of Godzilla Capitalism at work in the world. It's trampling everything - at this rate - time is running out anyway on this planet. It's just so beyond our %#[email protected]# control.... So if you think smashing Starbucks windows defeats the Big Monster you are more insane that IT is! So why fret? (HiCcUp)

All the Californians can start chanting mantras now.....I'm outa here....

(Falls flat on the floor......)

On Jun.21.2004 at 09:09 PM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Tan, you forgot to add Social Democrat to that list. Or was that omission intentional? ;-)

I think that the voice, more or less, of social democracy is that which is being heard here.

On Jun.21.2004 at 09:10 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Ah, Tan, you should've come to visit me on Bowen Island when you had the chance!

Mmmm...berries and wild morels and chantrelles sound lovely. Bowen Island moonshine, maybe less. Maybe next time I get a hankerin for hollerin, wizzin in the woods, and homedone dentistry — I'll give you a shout Marian.

>Krispy Kreme...That's one fine donut.

Sorry Emma, but I'm with Marian. KK makes one damn good donut. Not worth waiting 45 mins for, but if you don't have anything else to do...maybe.

...

So let's take another tack everyone.

Any large consumer brands you do trust and find good in? Like Apple? and Target? ...and...um...and...uh...you know, I honestly can't think of another corp brand you guys haven't shit all over before.

sheesh.

On Jun.21.2004 at 09:15 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I think Midnight Oil puts it well in a song called "Progress"

Man...I haven't listened them in years...the world really needs more bands like them...gotta go dig up some old CDs now...

Any large consumer brands you do trust and find good in? Like Apple? and Target? ...and...um...and...uh...you know, I honestly can't think of another corp brand you guys haven't shit all over before.

Tan. It's a blog. People rant. That's what blogs are.

OK...good brands...my local Farmer's market. Love that. We have a chain of fast-food Pizza joints in the cities called Davanni's. They offer their employees that work over 30 hours a week Comprehensive Medical, Paid Time and a 401K plan. All employees get tuition help for school. They also have really really good pizza offered at the same price as anywhere else. Dayton's...a local chain of department stores later bought by Target and since sold. The Dayton Family has a long history of being huge proponents of corporate giving and supporting of the local community. Oddly, Target, probably in the name of consolodation of materials and what have you decided to change all Dayton's stores over to Marshall Fields. We still all call it Dayton's, though. Umm...what else...our St. Paul Saints. Our minor league team. Always a sell out crowd at $4 a ticket. The twins are lucky if the fill the first level at the dome.

That's just some off the top of my head...

On Jun.21.2004 at 10:01 PM
Eric Diamond’s comment is:

Tan! You SLAY me! Comrade! hahaha! You made my day comrade!

Ok, brands that I trust? I trust Apple...great computer experience. Could always be better, not perfect, but damn better than anything else out there.

R.M. Williams. Best shoes I ever bought. Unfortunately they are impossible to find in the states but you can buy them in Australia and I do, over the net. email me backchannel and I will hook you up.

Sony Ericsson phones: great design, reliable, works with the mac. Love em. Even the ones that suck.

Rolex. I have one, I bought it used and it is nearly as accurate as a quartz. I love it becasue it is mechanical with gears and springs and somebody MADE it, a person, not a machine.

Freemasonry. Best buncha guys I ever associated with. IT's like an anti-brand. Never mind what Dan Brown writes about them. If you want to know what we talk about, this thread and its contents is what we talk about. The Catholic Church can't stand Masons because we advocate for...(gasp) SECULAR education!!! Plus we get to wear funky jewelry.

Montblanc. I love their pens. There are better ones out there but for design, and feel, thers fit my hand like no other brand.

There are many others but I am a brand-loyal creature--a fact that drives my wife a little nuts at times. I love these brands (and others) and can honestly say that in small ways they make my life a little better.

On Jun.21.2004 at 10:07 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>So then he or she looks for excuses to transfer his/her disillusionment and malaise. Like a jilted lover... ...Gullible and petty I think.

Tan, I know you're attempting to twist what I wrote... but for clarity's sake, I refered to Le Mepris for a reason: because the English translation is Contempt.

Roland Barthes described the punctum as the point where the reader enters into a critical dialogue with the text — where the reader becomes 'author'. So when experiencing a Brand, any failure in customer service, any badly made product, any software bug, any Air shoe that blows out after two weeks of wear, any public criticism of corporate practice... it's over. The customer begins to write (not transfer) their disillusionment.

On a sidenote:

I am constantly amazed how Branding-tologists are absolutely blind to the impossibility of their project. It also astounds me how the AIGA can seriously think that they are capable of selecting the best branding campaign of the year; without considering aspects like customer service or manufacturing.

Lots of pretty pictures. Lots of pretty pictures.

The Emperor has no clothes.

The Emperor.

Has.

No clothes.

On Jun.21.2004 at 11:38 PM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Tan, you're such a guy. Jeez.

Just to add to our survey of failed social experiments of the last century...

According to many theorists, Corporatism was an attempt to create a "modern" version of feudalism by merging the "corporate" interests with those of the state.

"Fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merger of state and corporate power." — Benito Mussolini

I do think our system can work, but not if every show of bad will is excused at every level of the system, much less if every question is dismissed with a flood of red-baiting. We are "inside" the system, and we have a say about how industry meets culture far more powerful than simply "voting with our dollars."

On Jun.22.2004 at 12:14 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

INCORRIGIBLE! So sorry! Nevermind........LOL

On Jun.22.2004 at 07:04 AM
marian’s comment is:

Brand loyalty? For me, I'm not sure there's such a thing. There are brands I buy, some I prefer, and some I even like or recommend, but I relate to them as products, not brands. I really, really won't wear anything with a logo emblazoned on it (except Krispy Kreme--I have a t-shirt which I would wear if I could find it). If the brand has a "lifestyle" I won't live it (in fact I tend to avoid brands that extend themselves beyond whatever it is they sell). I can't think of any brand I'm so loyal to I wouldn't wear/try/use anything else.

I can't imagine loving a brand. I can't imagine identifying with a brand. I can't imagine wanting something because of the brand as opposed to the product.

On Jun.22.2004 at 08:20 AM
schmitty’s comment is:

Any large consumer brands you do trust and find good in? Like Apple? and Target? ...and...um...and...uh...you know, I honestly can't think of another corp brand you guys haven't shit all over before.

Ben & Jerry's

On Jun.22.2004 at 09:10 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>I can't imagine loving a brand.

Marian — you once told me you loved Subarus. Or that you loved your Subaru Impreza, and others like it.

Careful, sounds dangerously close to brand loyalty there.

>Corporatism...Fascism

Interesting additions Matt. Though there's a difference between a dictatorship where you're told what to do (Fascism) and a world of extreme equality where there are no longer any choices (Marxism). When Darrel laments the growth of Generica, he's mourning the loss of brand uniqueness and small-town choices.

Maybe the term should be Generism.

...

And yes Mark, the Emperor has no clothes. But does that make him evil?

On Jun.22.2004 at 09:42 AM
marian’s comment is:

Careful, sounds dangerously close to brand loyalty there

This is what I mean about liking the product over the brand. I do love my Subaru, but not becasue it's a Subaru. And I don't love it enough to wear a Subaru t-shirt or attend the yearly Subaru picnic/garage sale.

I've been thinking about my next car, and I don't know what I'll go for, but I'm not really leaning toward the Subaru ... unless they get this baby rolling off the assembly line:

http://www.supercars.de/singlecar/152/809.html

But at the moment I'm yearning for this:

http://www.hemmings.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/classifieds.cardetail/id/2105584

(would I look bitchin' in that, or what?)

Brand loyalty? Not even close. I like my car, not the company or the brand.

On Jun.22.2004 at 09:55 AM
marian’s comment is:

Oh, sorry, I know better:

link to the Subaru B9 Scrambler

link to the other car.

On Jun.22.2004 at 09:57 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

When Darrel laments the growth of Generica, he's mourning the loss of brand uniqueness and small-town choices.

And local economies.

On Jun.22.2004 at 11:01 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>would I look bitchin' in that, or what?

haha...that's just like the Rolls from Arthur, one of my favorite movies. "Bitterman, please drive though the paark, you know how I love the paark."

On Jun.22.2004 at 11:31 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Speaking of Wal-Mart and their disregard for employees.

On Jun.22.2004 at 04:12 PM
emma’s comment is:

Perhaps with all this mention of the fine upstanding citizens that Midnight Oil are, we should look at Peter Garrett's latest move into mainstream politics and the selling his soul to the devil also... noone is safe. He renounces all his previous stands against corporations and an anti-nuclear world.

Still dislike the Krispy Kreme phenomenon, you can't convince me.

On Jun.22.2004 at 09:06 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

Emma,

OK, I realize this discussion isn't about Midnight Oil or Peter Garrett, it is about whether or not we as a community of designers trust big business, branding (some of their branding we may be involved in) and government. Few bands have brought these issues to the front like Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil. The first song on their debut album, Midnight Oil, released in 1978 starts off with:

There's a shit storm a'coming

I feel it coming soon

There's a time and a place

And a moment in space

When the fat boys call the tune

There's a bubble a bouncing

And it's bouncing my way

There's two sticks in the powderworks

I think it's gonna blow today.

At midnight oil.com the links section contains links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Australian Conservation Foundation (a non-profit which Garrett is current President) and Greenpeace. Previous versions of this site offered published articles on the cultures and struggles of Indigenous People in today's world.

...we should look at Peter Garrett's latest move into mainstream politics and the selling his soul to the devil

Uh, no, he's always been in politics and just because he is a politician, how does this mean he has sold his sole to the devil? (Ironically he is also very religious which I have often wondered about a conflict of interest since-OK, brace yourself because here it comes- Christian history has a lot of blood on it's hands when it comes to Indigenous People (and no-Christians aren't the only ones-I don't mean to single out any one group, but here it just happens to be Christians). Lyrics from the song Warakurna elude to this where White law refers to todays current law system in Australia and Black Law refers to Aboriginese laws/values/cultures:

There is enough, the law is carved in granite

It's been shaped by wind and rain

White law could be wrong

Black law must be strong

He renounces all his previous stands against corporations and an anti-nuclear world.

I haven't heard of this. Please show me where you found this information, I would be curious to read it.

On Jun.23.2004 at 10:23 AM
Sarah B,’s comment is:

I just HAD to write something.. so this one made it to the "100" mark!

I need to sit down and read this soon.. so so busy this week!

On Jun.24.2004 at 12:36 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

Thanks Sarah-love the humor!

Do I hear 102? 102 anybody? 102?

:)

On Jun.24.2004 at 01:41 PM
Shahla’s comment is:

See this film when it's in your area in July; fuel for thought I've been told. I'll try and catch it this weekend. Since a non-designer told me about it, I'm curious to see how many references there will be to the brands in question on this thread.

On Jul.01.2004 at 02:49 PM
Tan’s comment is:

To comment about The Corporation's filmmakers.

I'm just going by their posted bios, but first off, why are they all Canadians? I ask this, because most of the corporations featured are US-based. When did Canada become the official corporate conscience for America?

And of the 3 filmmakers, one is an entertainment-movie director, one is an artist/animal-rights activist/writer, and one is a career academic. None of them have any journalistic, business, or diplomatic/government experience whatsoever. Have any of them worked a day in their life in a corporation? So from what basis are they forming their opinions and editing their perspectives?

Gee, do you think the movie has an agenda?

Just for once, I'd like to see a truly unvarnished, un-melodramatic, comprehensive documentary on corporate America — from people who are qualified enough to present the information intelligently, instead of feeding off paranoia, rhetorics, and hate propaganda.

Are they creating entertainment — ie. preaching to the choir? (It's a phrase Jeff G, not a religious reference) Or is it their intentions to really inform the public?

And btw, their glamourization of the WTO riots in Seattle (on the website) is a load of crap. That senseless riot was caused by a small group of activists, who irresponsibly enlisted the participation of hundreds of teenagers and pedestrians who had no idea what the cause was about, let alone be able to form an intelligent opinion about the issues. In the end, even the activists admitted that things had gotten out of control, resulting in needless violence and damage that cost into the millions. To the filmmakers, the WTO protest was "a rising wave of networked individuals and groups [that] have decided to make their voices heard."

That's exactly the kind of biased, uninformed, glamourization and hate-mongering that I'm referring to.

On Jul.01.2004 at 04:51 PM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:
hundreds of teenagers and pedestrians who had no idea what the cause was about, let alone be able to form an intelligent opinion about the issues.

Tan—I seem to take exception to a lot of what you have to say regarding design and corporations, but to keep it real brief, if you don't think average people are able to form intelligent opinions about the society to which they belong, why bother getting up in the morning? I mean, if people aren't basically capable of making sound value judgements (whether or not they were co-opted by the crowd in this one case), then isn't graphic design just the art of herding folks into boxcars? Doesn't seem like such a noble calling, really.

On Jul.01.2004 at 06:48 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>If you don't think average people are able to form intelligent opinions about the society to which they belong, why bother getting up in the morning?

No Matt — I'm serious, hundreds of teenagers who didn't even know what WTO stood for, all cut school, came in from the suburbs, and walked around town in groups trashing and vandalizing businesses in downtown Seattle. The protestors were very theatrical too, meaning that they dressed in giant turtle costumes and recruited people on the street to participate in sit-ins. They were there to put on a show.

And what were the activists protesting? They were protesting the inclusion of China into the WTO, citing human rights violations and environmental irresponsibilities. I doubt if many in the crowd really understood that was the issue. If they did, then why did they vandalize the Gap store, break windows at a bunch of Starbucks, and burned cars parked in the streets? How does that solve China's trade and human rights policies?

You see, I do believe that people have the ability to understand issues and form intelligent opinions — if presented facts and issues in intelligent ways. But most of what I see is little more than biased, anti-corporate propaganda. And that's where my challenge lies.

The biased attitude of most designers on this thread, like yours, just proves my point further. I had originally opened this thread asking for intelligent, non-rhetorical discourse about why certain global brands are perceived so negatively — and asked for tangible proof.

Instead, I keep getting continued rhetorics like "...if people aren't basically capable of making sound value judgements,...then isn't graphic design just the art of herding folks into boxcars?"

See what I mean? So who's not understanding who here?

On Jul.01.2004 at 07:39 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

...about why certain global brands are perceived so negatively...

Consider:

This

This

This

This

This

This

This

Those are some facts and issues presented in, I think, an intelligent way as to why the negative perception exists. That is all. Don't get all huffy with me.

On Jul.02.2004 at 10:03 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Congratulations Steve. You've met the challenge. Thanks for stepping up.

Now, are you game for some dialogue on the things you've presented, or will that be too huffy of me?

On Jul.02.2004 at 11:03 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

The corporations do have a large responsibility, but ultimately, they are not solely to blame during economic downturns.

In the absence of a clear place to blame, we point the obvious finger at the big targets. They must be at fault, somehow orchesrating the machine. In fact, the entire state of the economy is placed on the top guy's shoulders (that's a whole other topic). Even Shepard Fairey talks publicly about having the right to market his brand. The result: Paint one more target.

If you believe in the Mom's and Pop's, their goods and services, then support them and rally others to their cause. Otherwise, accept that business does what it is genetically predisposed to do; Survive, grow, profit. The good happens when this is paired with social responsibility - but it doesn't have to be. While consumerism is rampant, I don't think we have yet become the society of zombies that many proclaim. The problem often sounds like a case of envy between the haves and have nots.

Many of the "easy targets" give back at different levels. Remarkably, I don't hear the majority of Walmart employees complaining. People have the power to create change - maybe that is what this column is ultimately about. The earlier post at the top highlights the balance of the equation, communities relying on a single large business are a recipe for disaster. Diversity is a key to any survival plan. Ask any successful business - we could learn from them.

On Jul.02.2004 at 11:18 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Game? That's something you shoot at isn't it? ;)

Here's the funny thing, Tan; thanks to your thoughtful and reasoned posts, I've turned my head around a little on this topic.

So, I might not be as easy a target as you think.

On Jul.02.2004 at 11:54 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>I've turned my head around a little on this topic.

*just picked myself off the ground*

It's funny, but when I started this whole debate, I really didn't intend to dig my heels in and support the corporate side. I wanted to really understand where all of this animosity came from — like for Disney.

I'm not blind to corporate evils. I know how evil Enron is firsthand. I work w/ MS daily and have no glossy delusions about their corporate culture. And I'm fascinated by the complexity of corporate mergers and systems — who really does what for who, and who's best interest is served when I spend my dollars.

But when I discuss corporate issues with most designers, they all seem to spew out the same canned soapbox speeches and corporate slander. Most couldn't tell you more than bits and pieces of things they remember seeing from a Michael Moore film. They are anti-establishment, but not by forming their own conclusions. (and yes, I know I'm generalizing here...sorry)

It's the same with environmental/sustainability discussions we've had in the past. Most people believe in the worst, without really understanding the issues. In a previous life, I studied chemical engineering and biochemistry — and believe me, nothing is as simple and direct as it's made out to be when it comes to sustainability. You can't trust the media hype.

Same with brands. I'm no corporate expert, but I've had enough corporate clients to know when people oversimplify things.

So I say, read the facts. Chase the truth. Have a good dialogue about it and maybe you'll learn some things.

I know I have. I've been enlightened by lots of stuff that's been posted on this thread so far. It has changed as well as confirm my opinions on a few matters.

On Jul.02.2004 at 01:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

On topic, and lighthearted for this pre-holiday Friday: (click on number 2) Alien Invasion for Greenpeace. Via Coudal.

On Jul.02.2004 at 07:09 PM